Malchus, the masters of melodic death metal from Poland, have released Apokalipsa, an album that shows the band fully embracing their folk metal roots and love of seemingly non-metal instruments, resulting in a more complex and nuanced sound than heard previously.
One of my favorite parts of the Malchus story is that they trace their roots to a punk rock demo, a long way from the folk-influenced melodic death metal where the band has come into their own. Being a aging hardcore kid/punk who got into metal, I think this spirit comes through in their music and the band has been one of my favorites for quite a while…even though I speak no Polish whatsoever. Guitarist/vocalist Radoslaw Solek started the band in Dębica, Poland and the band has seen quite a metamorphosis in their sound since the punk rock days, evolving from folk metal to melodic death metal sound from Didymos (2010) to the more folk-influenced Caput Mundi (2011), to the more polished Dom Zly (2014), which was further refined in Ur (2017), to Dziedzictwo (2019) and now Apokalipsa in 2021.
Apokalipsa is by far the most radical shift in sound for the band and the digital version of the album is actually a tale of two albums as the band includes the instrumental versions of the songs. While some may see this as needless padding to make a release longer, I would argue the two versions of the songs stand on their own, and I might even suggest listening to the instrumental versions first as one can fully appreciate the intricate arrangements and musicianship more fully in the absence of vocals. Before you go jumping to any conclusions, Radosław Sołek’s gritty, rough, shouted vocals are in top form on the album similar to previous ones if a bit rougher and grittier.
I think the biggest change in overall sound I noted was that keyboards and other instruments which, in previous albums provided support for certain sections of songs, now play a key role in the overall sound. The keyboards in “BrońMy” which opens the albums greet the listener with this change immediately and stay throughout much of the song. Also, of note is the use of gang vocals on parts in the song as this was a rather rare element in their sound in the past. As the song unfolds, the guitars and keyboards intertwine and take turns driving the song along, all backed by solid drum work from Tomasz “papirus” Pyzia, who manages to punctuate each note with a driving snare.
“Pax” is the one song on this album that immediately gave itself away to me as a Malchus song and surprisingly highlights keyboards in the main melody. Again Pyzia’s drum work really carries the song once it speeds up and the interplay between the guitars and keyboards reminds me a lot of Blackmore and Lord…although a bit heavier. Sotek’s rapid-fire vocals are perfect in the verse sections and similar to songs like “Dom Zly” there is a quiet interlude in the song that transitions perfectly back to the driving guitars and drums in the main verse.
Po(d)step starts out unlike anything I’d expect to hear and throughout the song there are horns punctuating the vocals in the verse sections and some keyboards that dominate the sound when they are around. This song really brought to mind something like ska-metal due to the horns but otherwise unlike ska. I can’t even imagine what this might be like to see live and I sure would like to see it.
Perhaps harkening back to their punk roots oh so long ago, “Srebrniki, Denary i Ruble” begins with a pick slide and takes off from there conjuring up imagine of circle pits and gang vocals, even including a breakdown section that includes horns…yes that is not a typo…and it works…
“ZłoToZło” (Evil is Evil) shows the band bringing back some more of the traditional folk sound and melodies and speeding them up a bit, which means you have the expected guitars and drums but also a heavy influence on the sound from keyboards and other instruments you might not expect. The song itself, includes multiple starts/stops to break things up and they almost function like punctuation in a sentence. Creating that brief silence and pause. Guitars and keyboards combine for a great duo lead section in this song which further drove home the Blackmore/Lord idea in my head. “Non Possumus” and “Droga” close out the album and bring the listener back to more of the melodic death metal found in the more recent Malchus releases. That being said…as it typical on this album “Droga” features an extended horn section/interlude much like the piano ones found on previous Malchus albums.
As for the instrumental versions of the songs…you will be really missing out on some great music if you overlook them. They could stand on their own as a separate release as without the vocals, they carry an entirely different feel.
As hoped, Malchus continue to impress, even with their sound evolving in ways I wouldn’t have expected or predicted. The musicianship is outstanding, production quality phenomenal given all the elements in the songs, and the songs themselves show that a great deal of care and genuine emotion has gone into their crafting.
Written by John Jackson.
- Srebrniki, Denary i Ruble
- Non Possumus
- BrońMy (instrumentalnie)
- Pax (instrumentalnie)
- Po(d)stęp (instrumentalnie)
- Srebrniki, Denary i Ruble (instrumentalnie)
- ZłoToZło (instrumentalnie)
- Non Possumus (instrumentalnie)
- Droga (instrumentalnie)
Radosław Sołek – Guitar, vocals
Rafał Ligęzka – Guitar
Bartosz Tulik – Bass
Tomasz “papirus” Pyzia – Drums
Release Date: June 11th 2021
Record Label: Independent, 2021
Video for ‘BrońMy’
Video for ‘ZłoToZło’