Without a doubt, Reading's Malefice are not only one of the leading lights in the countries wave of young metal bands, but also one of the most respected. Almost relentless touring, both as head-liners and as support to bands such as Arch Enemy and Devildriver and high profile festival slots has seen Malefice gain a great reputation in the UK metal scene. Awaken The Tides is their third album, and by far the strongest.
Whilst there is no denying that 2009's Dawn Of Reprisal was a very good album, and it put Malefice firmly on the UK metal radar, it was a rather unspectacular affair. It was heavy, aggressive and had killer grooves but was unfortunately not a world beating record which we could have hoped for, but it showed definite signs of potential. Awaken The Tides is the sound of that potential fully realised and is a great evolution from Dawn Of Reprisal. DOR was Charmeleon, ATT is a Charizard.
Whilst Dawn Of Reprisal was quite formulaic throughout, Awaken The Tides is much more experimental. Upon first listen you quickly realise that there is so much more going on than before. Firstly whilst DOR was clearly groove orientated with some death metal influences, ATT isn't so clear cut musically with a wider range of influences on display. Album opener and title track for example is more straight forward death metal than groove metal (other than the vocals which we will come to in a bit), Chris' drums sounding particularly vicious and strong here. 'Blessed Curse' shows some Arch Enemyesque shredding in the solos, whilst 'Dead In The Water' brings to mind Unearth at times. There is even use of string sections and pianos in places which would not have been thought of before of this band.
The most noticeable change and improvement however is Dale Butler's vocals. With little variation on previous output, here Dale shows a much wider range of talents than just 'cookie monster' growls. There is a lot of more hardcore sounding vocals, much of the time Dale sounds to have been influenced by Trevor Phipps of Unearth, and blends this hardcore sound with his more familiar deeper growls very well throughout. Dale also, for the first time, tries out clean vocals which actually work extremely well, especially on the chorus of 'Minutes'. All these new styles Dale has incorporated into the sound and they all work surprisingly well.
The songs on Awaken The Tides are a lot stronger than on previous output as well. 'Outnumbered, Outgunned' is a pit ready 'call to arms' anthem more of the ilk of Dawn Of Reprisal. 'The Day The Sky Fell' opens with a mellow and almost melancholic atmosphere, with the odd outburst of power coupled with Dale's almost pain ridden sounding shouting and emotive clean singing in the chorus'. The album closes curiously with the near 10 minute 'The Haunting' which for the first 5 minutes is hard, heavy and fast as Malefice do best then suddenly slows before moving to almost acoustic sounding guitars and almost whispered clean singing. This song in particular shows how much Malefice are willing to add and develop to their sound to move forward.
Awaken The Tides is not only a great improvement upon Malefice's previous material but is a strengthening and evolution of their sound. This is the sound of one of the UK's greatest potentials taking leaps into world beating material and it is a great thing to hear. This should see them becoming fully recognised as a world class metal band, and anything less for these guys will be criminal.
Listen to: Awaken The Tides, Minutes, The Day The Sky Fell