Location:Boston, MA, USA
Release Date: 16/09/2013
'Post-hardcore'.What does the term mean to you?
If you're under the age of 25, it can evoke images of dreadful crab-core scene bands bleating tunelessly while attempting to balance the combed weight of 40mm tunnels and their epic day-glo fringes on under nourished frames by rocking back and forth on monitors with their heads tilted sideways and running between the crowd and the drummer fifty odd times a show.(Design The Skyline anyone?)However, for people like me, who are, like, all old and shit and remember These Arms Are Snakes and Refused before they were a burnt out nostalgia act, the movement represented a refreshing alternative to the brainless belligerence of bands like Hatebreed and Throwdown, and gave a generation of backpack wearing vegan hardcore kids their own style icons in the likes of Cedric Bixler and that bloke from Thrice.
The debut EP from Boston quintet Mals Totem recalls some of those great bands in parts, but also adds in a progressive sensibility and songwriting nous that's all the band's own.Witness the nuanced staccato riffing and falsetto vocals of opener 'Strangest Motion' and be reminded of gems by the now forgotten likes of Christiansen, with the band twisting and turning through time changes like men possessed, vocalist Dave Vives unleashing a furious howl that recalls a more grounded Bixler.The band veer between furious post-hardcore riffing and more subdued, almost jazzy passages, a little like a more chilled out, less black metally, less Italian Ephel Duath at times, at others recalling early At The Drive In.The band are remarkable musicians, especially Vives, who displays a remarkable vocal range, and acts as the band's focal point,his passionate delivery a counterpoint to the clinical musicianship displayed.There are moments of utter brilliance;'Grind Tune' displays more ideas and invention in its 5 minutes 20 seconds than bands like Funeral For A Friend have their entire careers, while 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' is eerily beautiful, like a heavier Radiohead channelling . . .And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's mellower moments.
Overall, it's a strong collection of songs from a clearly talented and endlessly inventive band.However, at times, it's all a little too polite, a tad polished.Songs this great demand to roar from your speakers and grab you by the(figurative,aural) nads, but the production is just a little too quiet at times for my tastes.One can imagine that the band slay live, and it would be nice to hear more of a live, aggressive sound on another recording.Still, like the moody nihilistic bastard I am, as usual I'm nitpicking, and if there is one thing I have to say about Mals Totem it's this:if this is what they produce on their debut, it's scary to think what they're capable of in the future.Definitely recommended listening.
For fans of:Christiansen, At The Drive In, Enemies, The Mars Volta, ....And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Listen to/Stream/Download it here:http://malstotem.bandcamp.com/