Artist: Malice Divine
Album Title: Malice Divine
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 19 February 2021
I will admit to coming across this album which searching a particular promo database for something rather different. However, seeing as I’m always on the lookout for a new discovery or two, I investigated further, intrigued by the cover art and buoyed when I read that this debut independent release might appeal to fans of Dissection, Immortal and Wintersun amongst others.
Malice Divine is ostensibly a solo project spearheaded by the Canadian multi-instrumentalist, York University major and ex-Astaroth Incarnate member Ric Galvez. He handles the guitars, bass and vocals for this record, with Dylan Gowan sitting behind the drum kit. Apparently, most of the music for this album was written whilst Ric remained in Astaroth Incarnate, due to a long-held dream of having ‘full creative control’ and a desire to be known as more than a guitarist. What you hear therefore, is Ric’s own personal artistic vision, backed up by some personal lyrics also.
For a debut solo record, there is a lot to be impressed about too. There are absolutely a few rough edges that need smoothing and I am certain that this album does not represent the pinnacle of Galvez’s career, because there is evidence aplenty that there is more and better yet to come. But as an opening gambit, it’s pretty darn good to these ears.
When I talk of rough edges, I’m referring principally to the songwriting. There are some quality blackened death metal songs amongst the nine on offer, but I’m not a fan of all of them. Occasionally, I think the material could do with a bit of an edit too, as this album pushes close to an hour in length, arguably unnecessarily so. Also, whilst Galvez’s vocals are a perfectly acceptable gruff rasp, they’re a little unremarkable at times.
I feel bad for criticising the production too, especially given the fact that this is a largely self-created record in the middle of a pandemic on what I suspect was a meagre budget. All things considered, it’s pretty decent, but I would have liked a little more clarity and power in places, especially where the bass is concerned, which goes absent without leave at times.
Having got the negatives out of the way, I can move on to the part of the review that I always like best: the positives.
Ric Galvez may want to be known as more than just a guitarist and that’s a laudable endeavour. But the fact remains that it’s the guitar playing that stands out most on ‘Malice Divine’. Whether it is in the form of a sharp, icy riff or expressive and flamboyant lead solo, Galvez knows what he is doing and delivers some juicy material in the process. I also love the inclusion of some classical guitar sections, albeit sparingly used to ensure maximum impact. For once, I agree with the press release and categorisation, because I certainly do hear a distinct homage to the likes of Dissection both in the style of the riffs and the classical guitar elements. This isn’t ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’ part two, but Scandinavian blackened death metal is clearly the biggest influence on Galvez and I won’t be complaining.
Highlights on the album include ‘Quantum Manifestation’, ‘Malicious Divinity’ and ‘The Transcendence of Isolation’.
‘Quantum Manifestation’ explodes with furious aggression from the ashes of the opening instrumental ‘Somnium Lucidus’, delivering some of the most intense and razor-sharp riffing on the album. There’s a sense of understated melody whilst the guitar and drum combination does its best to rip your head off with a savage, fast-paced assault. The tumult then dies away to be replaced with a solo classical guitar that acts as the gateway to another side of Malice Divine. That other side is a slower, more melodic and majestic one, where the lead guitar sings above a reduced backdrop. It’s not long though, before the pace quickens, the fast-picked riffs return, and we’re dragged kicking and screaming to the song’s finale.
I’m a fan of ‘Malicious Divinity’ because it’s a slightly more honed song whilst also being one of the fastest on offer. The speed of the drumming and the riffing at various points is impressive as it never descends into a indecipherable mess. But despite being rapid-paced, I love the injection of slower segments where Galvez indulges his shredding tendencies to deliver some killer solos.
The final track of the aforementioned trio is both the longest on the album and the closer. It pushes ten minutes in length but unlike a couple of other songs, it doesn’t waste any of that time with filler. Instead, it opens up with a beautifully elegant classical guitar intro before reprising the melody with resonating distorted guitar notes and soaring lead lick. As good as some of the melodies are on this album, those found on this song are easily the most striking and my favourites. The lead guitar work is emotionally-charged too, almost pleading at times. It feels like there’s more time and space within the composition as well, allowing a greater ebb and flow and marked contrast between the faster and slower passages. There’s even room for an introspective keys-led section before the wailing guitar return over a more measured tempo.
In summary, ‘Malice Divine’ is an incredibly solid and charming record that I have liked getting to know in some detail. Ric Galvez is not the finished article by any means but the music on this debut solo effort demonstrates that he has the skill and talent to take this project even further and garner plenty more fans in the process. I have a soft spot for melodic blackened death metal and this is one of those records that firmly reminds me just why that’s the case.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: