Album of the Week 09-2016: Alkaloid – The Malkuth Grimoire


Recently, I praised Obscura’s excellent new record ‘Akróasis’. It showed that frontman Steffen Kümmerer could make great albums even without the rest of the classic lineup. Last year, drummer Hannes Grossmann and guitarist Christian Münzner – along bassist Linus Klausensitzer, who is still in Obscura – proved that it’s also true the other way around. ‘The Malkuth Grimoire’ may not be as instantly recognizable as Obscura’s work, but it’s a downright fabulous work of progressive extreme Metal. In fact, while the music does expand upon the traditions set by the likes of Death, it’s really quite unique in atmosphere and structure.

Don’t mistake this for a simple Obscura spin-off. Alkaloid’s music is darker, sometimes even somewhat unsettling and several passages are really more progressive Rock than Metal. Part of that is probably the influence of singer and occasional guitarist Florian Magnus Maier, who is prone to adapt a darker approach in songwriting, but since Grossmann wrote just about as much material, it seems like he wanted to go in that direction as well. Maier’s switching between grunts and clean vocals – though still rather raw most of the time – really augments the shifts in atmosphere, which is where the album really outdoes any competition.

Besides, the band has three amazing lead guitarists. Münzner was forced to leave Obscura due to a disease that affects his fingers, but his dexterity, as well as the highly melodic nature of his lead work, really shines here. Danny Tunker, who played with the likes of Aborted and Detonation, also plays better than he ever has here, while Maier’s more abstract solo’s really add an interesting layer to the record. And that doesn’t even apply to Maier’s guitar sample collage ‘C-Value Enigma’, which brings to mind Zappa’s ‘G-Spot Tornado’. The album even closes with a brilliant solo section; the perfect conclusion to the amazing build-up of ‘Funeral For A Continent’.

What makes the album so unique is that it’s constantly on the move. A lot of modern, progressively tinged bands are just in your face all the time, but Alkaloid lets its music breathe. There’s a lot of clean and acoustic guitar moments – opening track ‘Carbon Phrases’ and the simply amazing ‘Orgonism’ for instance – to balance out the extreme heaviness of a track like ‘Cthulhu’ or the hyperactive speed of ‘Alter Magnitudes’. That’s also why the album’s longer songs, most notably Maier’s tetralogy ‘Dyson Sphere’ and the aforementioned ‘Funeral For A Continent’, stay interesting throughout their length.

To a certain extent, the same goes for the entire album. With a running time of 73 minutes, it’s an incredibly long album, but it still leaves you wanting more. In a time of increasing musical interchangeability, that is quite an impressive achievement. It does help that the musicians involved never let their obvious virtuosity get in the way of the music, but use it to augment the songs they have written. And isn’t that exactly what virtuosity should be used for in the first place? Let this album be a lesson to any progressive Death Metal band around these days.

Recommended tracks: ‘Funeral For A Continent’, ‘Orgonism’, ‘Carbon Phrases’

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