A Looking in View: Malevolent Creation – The Ten Commandments

“A Looking in View” is The Beacon’s newest online-exclusive music review segment. With each edition, our resident metal music aficionado Parker takes a look at an iconic album released in the world of metal on the day of its anniversary.

Malevolent Creation - The Ten Commandments

The Tampa Bay death metal scene is much like the San Francisco Bay thrash metal scene: there are simply too many good bands that came from there. We have death metal pioneers in Death, Morbid Angel and Massacre. We have legendary second-wave acts in Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and Monstrosity, as well as solid underground favorites like Hate Eternal and Nocturnus. Oh, and there’s also proggy-tech favorites like Atheist and Cynic. Six Feet Under also exists.

Malevolent Creation found themselves right in the thick of death metal’s “golden age” in the early-to-mid 1990s. Despite originally being imports from Buffalo, Malevolent Creation settled quite nicely in the Florida scene. Unfortunately outside of their genre-defining early records, the band has generally been seen as a vital, yet underrated component in the development of death metal.

The band’s lineup at the time of their debut album was now-deceased vocalist Brett Hoffmann, guitarists Phil Fasciana and Jeff Juskiewicz, drummer Mark Simpson and bassist Jason Blachowicz. Twelve albums and almost 30 years later, only Fasciana is still in the band today.

On this day in 1991, Malevolent Creation released their debut album and death metal benchmark: The Ten Commandments. This and their sophomore album, Retribution, are considered essential in the death metal catalog.

The opening track “Memorial Arrangements” has an eerie spoken-word played over slow-tempo instrumentation before transitioning into the album’s first proper song, “Premature Burial.” This track is a good representation of early death metal in the United States: brutal, muscular and heavy. It comes in at full speed before switching between mid-paced gallops and slower grooves.

“Remnants of Withered Decay” ups the tempo quite a bit. Make no mistake, this is a thrash metal song with death growls, and it is intense. “Multiple Stab Wounds” is an album highlight. You know how some people ask for examples when it comes to what things sound like? If they asked for what old school death metal sounded like, just play them this song. It’s definitely a high point on the album.

“Impaled Existence” has twisted guitars and interesting computer effects on the vocals in the middle of the song. “Thou Shall Kill!” is another one of the highlights of the album and is arguably one of the best individual tracks in 1990s death metal, period. The song is as violent as its name, the guitars are frantic and the chorus is even somewhat catchy. The instrumentation is incredible.

“Sacrificial Annihilation” is another classic old school death metal song, with a furious bassline and the guitars ripping and tearing in a frenzy.”Decadence Within” sees awesome guitar passages and some of death metal’s earliest blast beats.

“Injected Sufferage” is another bass-driven song and is where they arguably sound their thrashiest. This song in particular is interesting lyrically because it discusses drug use, particularly AIDS. Up to this point, this wasn’t a common theme in death metal. Kudos to Malevolent Creation in being innovative.

The final track is aptly called “Malevolent Creation” and it is also the longest song at five minutes and 31 seconds. It features an impressive sustained scream from Hoffmann and skull-splitting drums. The album ends on a positively ferocious note.

The instrumentation here is great, and I really appreciate the lack of unnecessary showboating. The drums and guitars form a great compliment with one another. The riffs are heavy and terrifying, whether they have tremolo picking, crushing chords or furious sweeps. There are dive bombs galore here. Even at such an early production stage, the guitars have a massive amount of bite and distortion to them.

The drumming is some of the tightest I’ve heard on a death metal record. Simpson hardly ever overdoes it or tries to showboat. Every blast beat, double bass pedal and drum fill fits in with each overall song. The bass, unfortunately, is largely disregarded for much of the album.

Hoffmann’s vocals are impressive. He employs a shouted thrash-style scream, but much much harsher. He sounds a little bit like Jeff Becerra from Possessed on here, which is always a good comparison. He showcases a good death metal range, with solid high and low-register vocals all throughout the album.

From a death metal perspective, the vocabulary on display here is pretty impressive. The album follows a loose plot of a person buried alive and their soul’s subsequent journey to a barren landscape without any god. The themes are quite thought-provoking and revolve around religion, mortality and violence. The album is mixed by legendary metal producer Scott Burns, who was responsible for engineering many quintessential death metal albums in the 1990s.

Although there are a lot of earworms here, my one complaint with The Ten Commandments, much like other early death metal records, is that a lot of the songs tend to run together. Everything is so tight that it kind of blurs. If you’re not paying attention to the tracklist you might let lost with what track you’re on. However, this consistency is also part of what makes the album so great.

With that being said, this is still an essential, if somewhat underrated, album from early 1990s death metal. Malevolent Creation took the template laid down by Death, Possessed and Morbid Angel and contributed to giving death metal its signature sound. They didn’t invent it by any means, but they may have been one of the ones to perfect it. Unfortunately after they released Retribution one year later, they’ve hardly come close to reaching the peaks that were on display here.