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Maleficarum - Across the Heavens
Review: After death metal grew, the thread of its development that later became black metal flourished: a desire to make "dark metal," or death metal with more varied tempi, melody and as a result of this lessening of constant intensity, atmosphere. Maleficarum provide a similar mood to the first Darkthrone album, in which slower, melancholy death metal builds up to great intensity through melody, like a hybrid between early At the Gates and second album Morbid Angel.
Like the best of early death metal, Maleficarum is "technical" in that as a means to writing the songs desired, the band shift geometrically between tempi and use successive iterations of melodic ideas to build atmosphere, creating song structures that seem to wander discursively until reunited with former riffs in a new context. This prismatic construction in which interrupted circular patterns generate new context for previous riffs, through a sense of expanding harmonic backdrop with each riff change, expands atmosphere as the song develops and then tempers it before resolution.
Riffs show the influence of faster American bands like Morbid Angel, but with a European sense of melody that the aforementioned At the Gates or even Entombed would find worthy. Throughout the album, guitar solos in the sentimental yet technical style of later 1970s progressive heavy metal expand on the moods established by riffs, becoming very far from extraneous in a style like that of older Therion. Vocals are a gruff bark that could use some variation, and drums while adept sometimes hog the spotlight, but on the whole this is an excellent, nearly forgotten technical death metal masterpiece.