Is there anything that gets the pulses racing like a debut album from a Bay Area metal band? Straight away, your mind conjures up images of head-spinning guitarists with their hands glued to the bridge of their instruments and stage-diving thrash maniacs going wild. You know the scene – those Vio-lence, Testament and Forbidden videos from back in the day capture the euphoria of the moment. So, you’d be right to assume Molten are cut from the same sweat-soaked cloth, right?
Well, they certainly have the energy and the intensity and the riffs, but Molten are not here to pay homage to the scene that spawned thrash metal in the 1980s. Listen to it with your headphones on and you might think this is a European death metal outfit experimenting with progressive structures and NWOBHM heroism. “This LP is a culmination of our interest in the heaviest forms of metal, with influences from all over the map,” says vocalist, Brandon Bristol. Judging by the band’s output on Dystopian Syndrome, it’s an interest that makes for forty-two minutes of menacing metallic mayhem and spectacular shredding.
You know we’re in for something different in the opening folk guitar passages of ‘Shadows in Quarantine’. The finger-picking techniques are luscious in their grace, almost flicking the strings in their rapid fret patterns and creating a sound like a harp with the resonance of a thicker kind of steel. It leads into the magnificent ‘Virulence’ with a 90s death metal attack straight from Stockholm. Think Opeth and Edge of Sanity with Entombed’s guitar tone and guttural vocals that sound like a caveman chuckling away at the sight of his dinner. Yes, the thrash rhythms are present but more in the spirit of Morbid Angel interpreting Slayer with the guitars harmonies of In Flames thrown in for good measure. The title track is even more curious, like a death metal band playing a pentatonic version of extreme metal in the way Convulse did back in the 90s. But this is not rot & roll – the doom metal ending is too crushing to warrant anything but a slow nod of the head in the manner of a lethargic zombie.
Zombies make an appearance on the album’s video-single, ‘Zombie’s Curse’, which is as much fun as the title suggests. By this stage you know Molten are ready to surprise, and they don’t disappoint here with a barrage of d-beat drums, distorted bass and Judas Priest heavy metal. We’re back in 1985 in the days of Sodom and Kreator’s blackened thrash with the lyrics and imagery from that era. Guitar solos erupt, the riffs gallop in palm-muted harmony, the vocals echo like an intruder in the pulpit. ‘On Through Phlegethon’ and ‘The Void’ are metal tunes for hard rock enthusiasts, sometimes speed metal, at other intervals pure grinding death metal with harsh vocals. The ten-minute closing on ‘Rising Embers’ scales the weeping guitar heights of Led Zeppelin after five minutes of riff soup. Underneath it all, the band are enjoying themselves and pushing their abilities to the max like elite heavy metal soldiers. It’s hard not to like it for this reason alone.
Pay attention to the vocals and you’ll make out a preoccupation with environmental despoliation and natural disasters among the zombies and fantasy tales. Molten have the epic musical sagas to go with their self-satisfied glee at the folly of the human race and will make you curse our species with a smile on your face and a capricious desire to celebrate our coming demise.
Release Date: 15/01/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Virulence, Holy Macabre, Rising Embers
Suggested Further Listening: Edge of Sanity – Crimson (1996), Ancient Thrones – The Veil (2020), Entombed – Left Hand Path (1990)