Cue the old man voice for the following quote, “When I was a boy, it was all called Heavy Metal!” I recently had a conversation about this with a much younger musician and I laughed because it’s true. Long before Sam Dunn started drawing up the official flowchart of Heavy Metal genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres it was simply “Heavy Metal”. Quiet Riot was heavy metal, Venom was heavy metal, Motley Crue was heavy metal, and AC/DC was heavy metal and somehow we survived. I am not so sure that society’s incessant need to categorize everything is necessarily a good thing. The new EP Ritualis Aeterna from Toronto’s Malacoda is the perfect example of why I feel this way. Let me explain…
Malacoda was described to me as “Symphonic Metal”, “Progressive Metal”, and “Horror Metal” and to be quite honest these are all metal sub-genres that I don’t often dip my toes in. That in itself belies the problem I have with Mr. Dunn‘s ultra complete and ever growing “flowchart of Heavy Metal”, labeling every band can often limit their exposure. Heavy Metal has evolved into many different styles and flavors and just like a trip to the liquor store, we all have our favorites. You enjoy your cold beer and a shot of whiskey? Fantastic! That shouldn’t mean that you will never enjoy the complexities of a nice glass of cognac from time to time. Ritualis Aeterna is exactly that for me, something completely outside of my normal listening experience but something I find myself completely immersed in and enjoying immensely.
Quickly a little breakdown to understand just what you might be in for before you turn up the volume on this disc. Malacoda is actually a character in Dante Alighieri‘s Inferno (Cantos 21-2), the leader of 12 Demons guarding the 8th circle of hell. Ritualis Aeterna can be translated from latin as “celebrations of eternal death” so don’t be expecting a cover of Poison‘s “Nothing But A Good Time”.
Opening with the hauntingly beautiful “Penny Dreadful” the whole symphonic element comes at you full on. The production is phenomenal, I highly recommend a comfortable chair and a great set of headphones. Dark and truly sinister, the layers of orchestration spotlight the incredible musicianship found within this band. Malacoda is the brainchild of vocalist Lucas Di Mascio and he has assembled an outstanding lineup; Guitarist: Brad Casarin, Session Keyboards: Jonah Weingarten, Session Drums: Mike Harshaw and on Bass: Cooper Seldon. The result is a six song listening experience that I would simply describe as “Fucking Epic!”
Throughout Di Mascio demonstrates both an incredible vocal range as well as the ability to switch style and technique often many times throughout a single song. This cat can sing! He goes from dark guttural growls to a rich, melodic, almost operatic style on a dime. A standout track for me personally was the ballad, “Linger Here”. A simply beautiful and touching song that for some reason emotionally reminded me of Queensryche‘s “Silent Lucidity”.
Closing with the cinematic “There Will Always Be One”. Dark (did I say that already?) and epic (I know I said that already!) with a vocal hook in the chorus that gives me goosebumps. Ritualis Aeterna is an album that requires full on active listening. I would recommend the aforementioned quality headphones, a candlelit room and possibly a nice big glass of red wine. The complexities of the compositions will be lost if you throw this on as simply background noise and that would be a discredit to the musicianship found within. I totally look forward to seeing this band live on stage. If they can bring this to life live it will be mind blowing!