Those outside the Toronto death metal scene will know Ric Galvez as the inaugural winner of Banger TV’s Shredders of Metal. (Disclosure: This reviewer is a patreon of Banger TV). Likeable and humble as a contestant, Galvez stormed the final with a series of impressive sweep patterns and modal shapes to showcase an extraordinary level of technical ability. But now he wants to avoid being pigeonholed as a virtuoso lead guitarist and presents his debut album under the moniker of Malice Divine with Vesperia and Banger TV reviewer, Dylan Gowan, behind the drum kit. Can he make the transition from master axeman to master composer?
Fans of death, thrash and black metal will find enough to feast on, with the likes of ‘Quantum Manifestation’ and ‘Malicious Divinity’ serving up a white-hot cornucopia of fast riffing and fretboard mania. The severity of Galvez’s harsh vocal delivery deserves mention here as an unexpected delight. His throat abrasions take the head voice of black metal and the rasp of a death metal guttural and always sound urgent and expressive. You can tell Galvez comes from a classical background with rich acoustic guitar passages intermingled with thrash metal rhythms when the album needs a reset. Indeed, ‘Into the Subconscious Depths’, directs a nod towards the chord progressions of Metallica’s ‘The Call of Ktulu’ before exploding into a mellifluous death metal expedition through Chuck Schuldiner territory. Yet close your eyes and you can imagine Ihsahn of Emperor composing these rhythms and roaring down the mic. It’s a philosophical treatise on the self: “I foresee the sovereignty of a time where I’ve risen to what I define myself to be, my true personality,” screams Galvez.
Bringing in Dylan Gowan on drums only enhances the power and promise of the album. The prog-metal boffin is less interested in hemiolas and jazz time signatures and more concerned with the aggressive double-kick attack of Gene Hoglan. This gives Malice Divine the coveted death-thrash ferocity the music demands, and credit must also go Tyler Williams for capturing such a full-blooded snare sound and crisp bass drum in the mix. The undoubted highlight is ‘Ancient Visions’, a six-minute affair that dares to experiment with dissonant chords and a colossal Dissection tremolo riff. It’s the closest Galvez comes to a prog metal composition and gets better with each listen.
The execution may be impressive, but the content raises a few awkward questions during the listening experience. Fifty-six minutes of relentless melodic death metal with not a single pinch harmonic and little deviation from the fast alt-picking style make for a long journey that can sometimes border on tedium. Put this record under the microscope, and there’s little of original value. Like the last album from The Black Dahlia Murder, the realisation that we’ve heard this before starts to grind you down. At times, Galvez and Gowan sound like they’re auditioning for Megadeth in a YouTube playthrough. ‘In Time’ comes across as a tutorial session for budding guitarists rather than a genuine blaster for the metal faithful. And for all his pedigree, Galvez takes few risks with his solos. After three listens, this reviewer can still not remember one outstanding shred piece that leaves him with mouth agape and air guitar hands at the ready.
There’s no doubt Ric Galvez passes with flying colours as a multi-instrumentalist on his debut album. We’re judging him here as a musician but will analyse his next record as an artist. To make this transition, he will need to step outside his comfort zone and rip up the theory book.
Release Date: 19/02/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Quantum Manifestation, Malicious Divinity, Ancient Visions
Suggested Further Listening: The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers (2017), Death – Individual Thought Patterns (1993), Cathartic Demise – In Absence (2021)