Maladie – For We Are the Plague

*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #55 of the SBR Album of the Week.


Maladie are an unusual proposition. Hailing from Germany with roots in the country’s black metal scene, they might be the most prolific band in the underground. Now on their seventh full-length offering since forming in 2009, they managed to release a record every year for the last four years. This would be an achievement for most artists, but Maladie play complex and challenging music that demands supreme musicianship and imagination. The idea of a double album clocking in at one hour and ten minutes at this stage in their career would be a risk for most – but not these Germans. Indeed, the triumph of For We Are the Plague lies in its ability to keep you enthralled from the first to the last minute.

We struggle to define avant-garde metal. Is it a collective of musicians incorporating non-traditional influences into their art and their aesthetics. The more experimental, the more likely we can give it this term. But what about those bands that write choruses and solos and play up to clichés with a devilish sense of humour? There’s a wide chasm between Mr Bungle and Celtic Frost, and Maladie belong in the former camp. To them, nothing is off the table. They take great pleasure in confusing you and second-guessing your instincts. And yet they can go toe-to-toe with any extreme metal band when they embrace the heavier side of their music. The bass-hungry rock extravaganza of opener, ‘Antimundane’ is a case in point. This goes in a rogue black metal direction just as you sneer with a cigarette ready to pop a party balloon. A saxophone inserts itself among the caverns of a death metal tangent like a magnet to a fridge door. Vocalist, Alexander Wenz, races through the full gamut of singing styles in five minutes.

The probability that no two songs will be the same is the only thing you can predict here. Fans of this year’s opus from Avatar will know the delight this brings. ‘And I Die Alone’ is an upbeat goth-rock song with heavy down-strumming and operatic duo vocals that threatens a leap into the extreme yet resets to a luscious passage of guitar pickings and flute venerations. ‘The Growing’ will take you back to the 1970s cruise ship of the disaster movie era. You can envisage the black-tie dinner guests enjoying a glass of malt as the band work in their dreamy saxophone. If only they knew the horrors that await them. “Rock & roll is the devil,” announces Wenz in the party metal of ‘With One Voice’. When Maladie change costume, they do it with great respect for its traditions. It means they can switch from dance beats to psychopathic death metal with ease.

Side two is longer, more ambitious, and even more unsettling. The grasp of melody in ‘Ghost of the Spaceless Void’ speaks volumes about Maladie’s talents as song writers. Mike Patton would love this music. At ten minutes and twenty-seven seconds in length, its pastel timbres veer from ballad rock to blackened death metal and post-punk. The title-track comes in at over nine minutes, two of which Wenz dedicates to rousing the downtrodden heavy metal loners of the world to rise up against the forces of oppression. Should they end the album here? Probably, but the Engelbert Humperdinck picnic of ‘Ruins in Triumph’ is irresistible in its charm and menace. What starts as a flowery piece of sentimental crooning turns into a vicious storm of drunken punk rock through the gritted teeth of a black metal band. They stretch it to seven minutes thanks to a stupendous outro of tech death-inspired groove metal riffing and saxophone stylings. This is the one song where you can hear the genius of Faith No More at work.

Maladie are too complicated and too distinctive to fit into any category. They could have delivered a fifty-minute album and held back three of the songs here for a future EP, but why stop when you have momentum? For We Are the Plague would be unlistenable for its sheer length alone if a death metal record or a tired piece of atonal black metal. But it’s the complete opposite. Like Edge of Sanity’s classic Crimson album, it incorporates everything across the rock and metal spectrum and draws on the textures of jazz, folk and easy-listening with a mischievous smile.

“You’ve got your fix of darkness – back to rock & roll, baby,” slithers Wenz in closing track, ‘I am the Tomb’. Maladie are entertainers, but they’ll also scare the shit out of you.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 24/11/2023

Record Label: Apostasy Records

Standout tracks: The Growing; Death is Recognition; For We Are the Plague

Suggested Further Listening: Edge of Sanity – Crimson (1996), Psykup – Ctrl + Alt + Fuck (2017), Avatar – Dance Devil Dance (2023)