Irish extreme metal group Malthusian are one of the best breakthrough bands in extreme metal of the last few years. Their Demo MMXIII
is one of the best metal releases of the decade so far, and their live show is killer too. With a new EP Below the Hengiform coming out next month, guitarist/vocalist Andy took some time to answer some questions for Swirls of Noise before the band heads off on tour with Altar of Plagues.
Thanks for talking to Swirls of Noise guys. Firstly you’ve got a new EP coming out next month called Below the Hengiform. Can you explain the album title?The Hengiform from the album title is an obscure archaeological reference that JK came across in his studies. It refers to an Iron Age enclosure, denoted by a circular ditch. The structures are believed to have had some sort of ritual significance with evidence of human and animal sacrifices having taken place within them as votive offerings, or offerings to their gods. They resemble ring forts but have their bank on the outside edge of the ditch which indicates their significance as liminal structuress (rather than defensive structures)- spaces that are like a gateway between the worlds of the living and the dead. That point of contact between life and death is something we explore in the lyrics and crops up in various forms across the album. The Hengiform seemed an effective way to thread this idea to a few other, on the surface, disparate ideas. It has the added bonus of being a new phrase within the metal canon. We are not interested in recycling cliches, we would rather find a new way of viewing the topic of death, or at least putting our own spin on it.And why another EP, rather than a full length album? Do you have any plans for a longer form release in the pipeline?We decided early on in the writing process to do another EP rather than a full length as we are still very much in our formative stages and feel we are still developing a sound that can be called our own. An EP gave us the chance to take another small step toward that before jumping into a full length album. The metal scene is absolutely flooded with bands and albums these days, and many of them are at a very high standard. We don’t want to release an album that sinks without a trace, we spend a lot of time perfecting our songs and getting them to a point where we can all stand behind them with confidence and we intend for our album to make a proper impact whenever we release it. There was a bit of a buzz around the demo and we could have easily jumped the gun to try to ride that wave of excitement but we know that patience will yield the best results for us. Releasing a strong EP seemed to be a good way of building momentum and was a much more realistic goal for us than a full length at this point. Our next aim is to work on a full length but don’t expect it any time soon.And how will the sound on the new release build on that of MMXIII?We are confident that the songs on the new EP surpass the songs on the demo. Every song we write has to be better than the last and be a step toward a more distilled sound. A Malthusian sound. We were very happy with the songs on the demo, they were violent, ugly, complex and catchy. They had a strong morbid atmosphere, too. These are the vital elements we aim for when writing and we think that every section and riff on the new one has been worked on with all that in mind. Being obscure and chaotic is great but it is a bigger challenge to try to sound chaotic and weird but still have memorable songs. It takes us a lot of time to get the balance right.You’ve got a killer abyssal sound to your music and you seem to combine a lot of aspects of extreme metal. What bands are your main influences?Our plan from the beginning was to combine black, death and doom metal which has worked really well to our advantage in that it keeps our options wide open. There are so many excellent bands both old and new that we all listen to. Slidhr, Zom, Svartidaudi, Portal, Antediluvian, Ride for Revenge etc etc are all doing things at the moment that are exciting in their own ways but to be honest, we are trying to forge a sound that can be called our own. The thing that makes these bands great, and all the old classics great too, is the variety of sounds that different groups manage to capture. Why follow meekly in other bands’ footsteps when it is more exciting, challenging and creatively satisfying to create something unique? Whether we have managed that or not is up to other people to decide but that is, at least, our motive.How do you approach the song writing process for Malthusian? The heart of your sound seems to be the great riffs, do you take a riff and start from there or does it evolve more organically?Our writing process is, as I mentioned, quite slow. Normally MB will have a riff or two written that he will bring to the table. We will fuck around with it, either by changing bits or by playing something totally different to it at the same time, which can change the dynamic of a riff completely. I tend to come up with stuff in the rehearsal room which we then chop up and play around with until it all starts to mutate into something resembling a usable riff. We try to structure the songs as we go and they normally have a loose shape by the time all of the separate riffs are written but songs do seem to go through many different formations until they feel resolved. Sometimes it all falls into place quickly but usually it takes a bit of time.You’ve been playing a lot of live shows over the last year, and with the upcoming EU tour with Altars of Plagues and various festival appearances you’re going to be pretty busy. I caught you with Bolzer in London back in June, then again in February with Primordial and your live sound has really tightened up in that time – it’s really great now! How much do you enjoy playing live, and is it a challenge to recreate that abyssal wall of sound approach?We like playing live a lot and have been really lucky to have played on many excellent lineups in the last year and a bit. We said early on that we weren’t going to play every two bit show that we were offered as we’d get fed up of playing to the same crowd every few weeks, as much as they’d get sick of seeing us, so to have been invited around Europe to different fests and gigs has been a real pleasure. We are set to head off around Europe tomorrow with Altar of Plagues for two weeks which is pretty incredible for a band with one demo out… It’s an honour and one we take seriously. We are pretty tight with our set and we know exactly how to capture that wall of sound live, it’s all down to the weird riffs we play rather than having the best equipment so anyone who comes out to our gigs can be sure they will be enveloped in a wall of vicious noise.You’ve already supported Primordial, Bolzer, Dead Congregation and now Altars of Plagues so far. You’ve been playing with other bands in your career, but how does it feel to be supporting those killer acts this early in Malthusian’s life?It’s so cool to be on the same lineup as so many other great bands and to get to meet them and to get pissed with them backstage. We somehow jumped straight onto the international stage, through Invictus’s tireless promotion and with the fact that the demo spread like wild fire through the scene. On the other hand, we didn’t play any half-baked gigs in the beginning. We waited until we had our songs finished, we had a strong set and we considered the visual angle too, so when we hit the stage for the first time we took the local scene a bit by surprise and the buzz spread out from there. This is just the beginning.And are there any lesser known groups from the Irish underground we all should be listening to?There are a few excellent bands emerging here and many who have been toiling away for years in relative obscurity. Slidhr, Rebirth of Nefast, Vircolac, Zom, Terminus, Wild Rocket and Venus Sleeps are all worth checking out. There are lots more, too.Thanks for speaking to SoN. Do you have anything else you’d like to add?Thanks a lot for the interview.