Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Malleus Interview


For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the band?

N - Malleus started sometime in 2012 I believe. It’s been so long, it’s starting to get difficult to remember. The band started off as a three piece with myself (The Hammer) on guitar, The Relentless on drums, and The Channeler handling bass and vocals. The Relentless and I had been playing in various punk projects and were getting a little bored with the style so we decided to start something incorporating those influences and mixing them with our love for Celtic Frost, Slayer, Metallica, Bathory, etc. We kept the band pretty quiet for the first few years. We weren’t intentionally keeping it a mystery necessarily. We were very much just writing for ourselves and weren’t really sure where we’d take the project. Then sometime in 2016, we decided to release what we had written as a demo tape, “Storm of Witchcraft”. To sum up the sound, if you can imagine Quorthon singing for Celtic Frost, that’d be the essence of our sound.

In 2023 you also have your first full length coming out, musically how does it differ from your previous ep's? 

N - This record is far more dynamic than the early records. We still love the earlier releases but they were definitely a little “one-note” in many ways and generally, just fast. Not a lot of differentiation between tracks. With the new album, we really tried to break out of our comfort zone and write songs that run the gamut on speed, tone, mood, etc.  

This is also your first release in 5 years, can you tell us a little bit more about what has been going on during that time frame?

M - In late 2017 our singer, The Channeller, decided to depart the band ahead of releasing the Night Raids 12”. That was when I was asked to join and take over playing bass. From there, we soon began writing The Fires of Heaven album. Outside of a dozen or so gigs, we spent the majority of the next 4 years confined to our rehearsal studio, refining the songs and crafting a linear concept for our first proper album. We had an interim singer during this period, but we ultimately decided to part ways with them in early 2020. By that point, The Channeller had found themself ready to return to the band, which is ultimately for the best as it makes for a cohesive catalog of recorded output. We finally entered the studio to record the album in late 2021 and have been preparing for its release ever since.

A lot of your lyrics go into the historical aspects of occultism, demonology and witchcraft, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in these topics?

C - I have a strong fascination with these topics, and our singer (The Channeler) and I have spent the better part of the past two decades reading, writing, and talking about them from different perspectives as students of history and psychology respectively. At the core of this is what we’d describe as “humankind's innate fear of the unknown,” and how, time and time again throughout recorded history, this fear has followed a very predictable path: the manifestation of personal and societal anxiety; an eventual psychological off-loading of this anxiety onto a scapegoat (an “other”); and as a result of never actually facing these serious emotions in a meaningful way, the rise of hatred, violence, and, on a societal level, eventual codified oppression of “the other”.  

It is a dark and depressing legacy to be certain, and whether or not this cycle will ever be broken at large remains to be seen. As for “The Fires of Heaven,” we tried to explore these themes by focusing on the initial half-century or so of the English Puritan conquest of and experience in New England. These were deeply paranoid and Old Testament God-fearing people, whose often violent interactions with the many other cultural groups in the region at the time (myriad indigenous peoples and groups, French Catholics, enslaved Africans, etc.), as well as their own religious infighting, significantly impacted the formation of early American identity. 

What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Malleus'?

C - The term is Latin for “hammer.” And while it is loosely inspired by the “Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches),” an infamous treatise on witchcraft written by two German clergymen in the late 15th century, the primary connection is that our earlier material dealt more directly with European witchcraft and occultism, and so we thought the term “Hammer” (in Latin) sounded cool. That said, this should not be confused for any type of stamp of approval for that text. While worth understanding for its historical context, it is a dark and deeply misogynistic book. It would be almost comical in its paranoia had it not helped to influence the overwhelmingly large (compared to other parts of Europe) number of witchcraft trials and executions throughout the Holy Roman Empire during the early-modern period. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?

M - The album cover was painted by Adam Burke. We commissioned him to create a piece that would specifically tie into the overarching concept of the album, setting the scene for the narrative to play out. The full painting is intended to be displayed on a gatefold album sleeve, so a simple glimpse of the cover online may not offer viewers the whole picture. There is more to it, something menacing creeping in the shadows of the forest…

C - Yes, the English Puritans in New England truly believed that Satan and his minions lurked just beyond the veil of the forests waiting to corrupt their Godly pursuits and "mission." It's all very complicated, and this is over simplifying things a bit, but you can really draw a direct line between their perception (versus reality), and the hatred and violence they perpetrated. We wanted the cover to try and capture this.

What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and also how would you describe your stage performance?

M - We did a couple of shows with Occult Burial and Black Rat in the spring of 2018. Even if it was only NYC and Boston, each gig was fantastic in terms of the energies from the bands. Everyone clicked stylistically and that was reflected by the enthusiasm of the audience and the breakneck performances from everyone who played. 

N - We also had a gig early on with Merciless. It was awesome to have shared the stage with such a legendary band.

Do you have any touring or show plans for 2023?

M - We’ll see what opportunities present themselves but it is our hope to begin performing in support of the album by Spring 2023. 

The new album is going to be released on 'Armageddon Label', how would you compare working with this label to other labels that you have been a part of in the past?

M - The biggest difference for us with Armageddon is the personal rapport we have with the label owner, Ben Barnett. Growing up in New England, we’ve frequented his record shop (Armageddon) and we’ve seen his band (Dropdead) perform live countless times. So working with Ben feels familiar for us. This is not always the case when working with a random label who approaches you through the internet to release your music. Those engagements may turn out to be fruitful, trusted partnerships in the long run, but in my experience the relationship with the label head tends to fizzle out as soon as the release engagement has ended. While Armageddon has been around since the late 80’s, it still operates very much as a DIY record label, and with that the ethics and business practice remain consistent with how they have been for 30+ years now. 

On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black, thrash and speed metal?

N - Generally, the response has been great. We think there is a rawness and abrasiveness to the band that people really gravitated towards. And when we say rawness, we don’t mean hiding behind a wall of noise and distortion to project this fake aura with the band. We think the songs and the energy they brought really resonated with people and reminded them of the classics they love but at the same time, weren’t a rehash of ideas they had heard before. 

What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?

M - Our main musical focus outside of Malleus is a project called The Watcher. This was something I started prior to joining Malleus, and it has since become closely woven with the other band members. We’re currently working on a full-length that will be recorded in late-2023. Aside from this, one of my older projects called Isolant will see some releases this year on Social Napalm and Sentient Ruin respectively. 

Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

M - It is really difficult to anticipate any shifts in style for any future output, as it simply seems so far down the line for us at the moment. I think for now we’re just excited to finally see this album through to completion and focus on that for the time being. 

What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

M - Aside from the obvious influence of bands like Celtic Frost and Bathory, I think collectively our biggest influence would be Metallica. On a personal level, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Amebix also reign supreme for inspiration. Outside of the usual suspects, the stuff that I’ve been reaching for most often these days would be Warren Zevon, Nocturnal Emissions, Jean Michel Jarre, Metalian, Doldrum, and Ä.I.D.S..

C - We each also have a strong fascination with myriad foundational and influential bands and musicians from the 50s, 60s, 70s, etc. It helps to keep the music sounding perhaps a little “fresher”. For example, rather than just say “We should write a song that sounds like this one specific Venom track,” we really try to understand what groups influenced a specific band or scene, and even what influenced those acts. This often takes you back to blues, soul, psych rock, whatever, but we feel it’s critical to have a solid foundation in the history of aggressive music.

Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

M - Many thanks for the support. Cheers.

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