There are three US metal bands named Malignancy. Two of them are from Texas. This one is from Yonkers, NY, and they play an extremely intricate, ferocious brand of death metal that started out noisy and pummeling, but has gradually become more complex and progressive, without losing any of its general savagery. Eugenics (buy it from Amazon) is their third full-length album; they debuted with 1999’s Intrauterine Cannibalism, and followed that up with two EPs – Motivated by Hunger in 2000 and Cross Species Transmutation in 2003. In 2007, they signed with Willowtip and released Inhuman Grotesqueries, their best record to that point, and now, five years later, they’re back. Nobody in Malignancy is attempting to make the group a full-time job; they create this music for the pure joy of it.

The band went through the usual flurry of lineup changes between their formation in 1992 and Intrauterine Cannibalism, but the three core musicians—vocalist Danny Nelson, guitarist Ron Kachnic, and drummer-turned-bassist Roger Beaujard—have been present since the debut album. Current drummer Mike Heller joined in 2004. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Beaujard was one-half of the ultra-brutal, almost cavemanlike death metal band Mortician, whose use of a drum machine and heavy creative reliance on samples of soundtracks, dialogue and screams from gory horror movies, as well as bassist/vocalist Will Rahmer‘s indecipherably guttural growls, set them apart from their peers.

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Malignancy use a few samples here and there on Eugenics, but they don’t start every song with them, and Kachnic is a much more impressive guitarist than Beaujard; he may be addicted to pinch harmonics (that squealing sound at the end of a death metal riff that makes it sound like CHUGCHUGCHUGCHUGSQUEEE), but he’s also capable of subdued, jazzy phrasing, as heard at the beginning of “Separatists.” The riffs he comes up with for the album’s final track, “The Breach,” are knuckle-busting in their complexity, but they also verge on catchiness. Nelson is a relatively expressive vocalist, by death metal standards. The lyrics are totally indecipherable, of course, but he manages to invest his lines with layers of emotion, sort of like how you could more or less figure out the gist of what Chewbacca was roaring and howling about in the Star Wars movies, and he shifts back and forth between an ultra-low growl and higher-pitched screams more often heard in grindcore bands like Discordance Axis or Napalm Death. Heller’s drumming is compelling, to say the least; his toms sound like tuned plastic buckets, but the sheer intricacy he musters, playing what amounts to a continuous half-hour drum solo divided into 11 sections, is impressive as hell.

It’s possible that the musical performances on Inhuman Grotesqueries were slightly more complex and progressive than those on Eugenics, but that’s debatable. Malignancy‘s entire body of work is a terrific testament to the fierce concentration and rigorous discipline required to make music that’s likely to sound, to the untrained ear, like explosive bouts of madness. Technical death metal’s not for everyone by any means, but once you get on its wavelength, it can inspire a kind of awestruck exhilaration not found in any other music.

Phil Freeman

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