Atlanta, GA based experimental, sludgy, blackened, grinding metallers MALEVICH have always been focused on change. Their most recent record “Our Hollow” has been the biggest step forward to date, and it marks the debut of a two guitar lineup with more interplay between three vocalists, all of which play an instrument. This has allowed the band more flexibility when it comes to creating dense layers of sounds and textures as well as new depths to their heaviest moments, which are truly overwhleming on this record. With its controlled and expertly constructed chaos, “Our Hollow” crafts forward-thinking grindcore and diverse metal that takes its influences to different levels, augmenting their intensity with truly masterful delivery. To appreciate one of the best records in this field this year, we asked the band to give us their thoughts and some insights about the writing process and share commentary for each and every track! Here’s what we’ve got.
The song-writing process has always been a collaborative process between the four of us, both musically and lyrically. We approached this record really trying to make something that felt like a collaboration and because of that it shifts between genre, it’s affair with grind and death metal just as much as screamo and post-metal. One of our constant considerations was always, “is this part memorable?” We wanted every moment to be a hook, each song to have nothing superfluous.
After months in the basement, pulling song ideas apart, piecing them back together, and demo tracking the entire album we drove to Baltimore to record with Kevin Bernsten in March, chosen thanks to his brilliant resume (especially the Full of Hell/Merzbow release) and his ability to make dense records sound like they punch the listener in the face.
“Malevich sit contentedly at the centre of a disgusting Venn diagram of black metal, death metal, grind and sludge creating a multifaceted psychotic creature of a record….
It is like meeting the creatures that lurk in the depths of your brain and once you have given them shape you know how to deal with them. Our Hollow is truly a remarkable album.” – Astral Noize UK
“Our Hollow sounds like a deranged, horrific testament to modern life encompassing both the outward shrillness and the devastating emptiness of introspection.” – Toilet ov Hell
“Throughout Our Hollow, no matter what precise style the band are employing, Malevich return time and time again to a thrillingly pulsating tension delivered with a caustic enough force to only barely metaphorically rip faces off. Ultimately, the album feels like the legitimate call out of someone who’s felt crushed by the march of the societal machine that has enacted some of the most dangerous conditions of the present social and political climate.” – Captured Howls 5/5 review
1. Earthen Womb – “behead the rabid fascist spectre”
We had written a good portion of the album before we Earthen Womb, but nothing sounded quite like a ‘first track’ so we wrote this song for that very purpose in mind. We wanted to come out of the gate swinging and then pull the listener back into a more psychedelic reverie, showcasing many of the elements explored throughout the record.
Lyrically, the song is a critique of the boring nihilist attitude often found in extreme music that asserts meaninglessness in a world where they are too fearful to find or create their own purpose, one that asserts apoliticality while actually striving close to oppressive ideology. We must exist in empathy to improve ourselves, otherwise we just whimper on pathetically.
2. Throne of Decadence – “in a world of false tales, set us free if we obey”
This was one of the first songs we completed and it’s one of the more aggressive tracks on the record. We just wanted to be as capture a sense of lurching angularity while being as aggressive as possible with only a moment for the listener to catch their breath.
We’re an American band and we’ve grown up our entire lives hearing about “freedom and liberty” when it’s the same country with the highest prison population in human history. So many people, especially the super privileged, assert that we live in a prosperous nation of great freedom with seemingly no idea that their actual ideologies are incredibly authoritarian. We know that this is true all over the world but this paradox is especially jarring here in the U.S.
3. Held by the Throat – “to dream one must first know terror”
This track is one of our personal favorites we have ever written. It feels like the most tightly composed piece of music we have made, each part meant to seamlessly flow into the next till the breakdown at the end. It’s exemplary of our goal of capturing hooks into every part, where each moment has an ear worm, whether rhythmic of melodic, that stays with the listener despite how quick each part is.
Deleuze and Guattari conceptualized desire as a positive production force in their book Anti-Oedipus. People strive to create change, though not always positive, and that fuels the social mechanisms that we experience in everyday life. People, especially those in power, are said to push for monetary gain but at the end of the day self-fulfillment is what we seek and that desire is a powerful tool that could be used for revolutionary purposes if we as a people decide that satisfaction can no longer be reduced to dollar amounts.
4. Fractured, Exultant – “pawned off, unwanted, I always wished I wasn’t here”
While every other song was torn apart and edited over a long period of time this song came together almost magically in a single practice. Building around the monotony of a plodding riff we are able to really dive into some of the most emotional post-metal or sludge moments on the entire record. It was one of the tracks where we wanted the vocals to feel their most haunted and pleading.
The lyrics of this song came just as naturally as the composition. It’s about addiction and family. It’s written from the perspective of a loved one feeling their most empty, unable to appreciate life but for the momentary relief of drug use.
5. The Endless Hunger of a Convenient God – “we hide in consumption and fuel certain death”
This is the track most reminiscent of what we did on Only the Flies, with some having commented that it sounds like old Converge. I think we reworked the staccato part in the middle at least four different times and the breakdown is probably the most hardcore thing on the album.
Marx wrote that “the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” He was referring to the inescapable presence that the past has on the present, how everything we are today was shaped by the past and we must deal with that reality. Imperialism and colonization, most often justified through religious and nationalist means, continues to define our culture and international policy. Entire civilizations have been erased and today we are sitting by as the entire planet’s ecosystem is being stripped bare, all in an effort to fuel short-term economic expansion and consumerism.
6. Spent – “tell me again “I deserve this” as if any of us have control”
The basic structure of this song came together in the van between Sasha and Connor humming out the majority of the track. We wanted the beginning of the song to feel like a swarm of bees attacking the listener that finally let up as the song hits its midpoint. At the outset of writing we were concerned the track felt too discontinuous but after Connor wrote his vocal parts and we listened back it came together as one of the most dynamic songs on the record.
The lyrics were inspired by the brief sight of a woman who seemed as though her face had been maimed such that she was missing her nose on the streets of Toronto. Passing by seeing her my periphery softly crying to herself left me feeling powerless and complicit. What right do any of us have to privilege and wealth when there are those who live so totally stripped of their dignity in the world? It’s disturbing to think about how many people live like this due to no fault of their own, people who have simply fallen into the cracks of our soulless economic machine.
7. Useless Talent, Promised Greatness – “every limb a wasted opportunity”
This is easily the most dynamic song on the album and opens up side b on the vinyl. Connor provides an ambient layout that Daniel’s reverb soaked bass line flows through (the tone here blended between the bass signal and a microphone placed inside an old piano, one of Kevin’s strokes of real genius). We really wanted to juxtapose this calm nature with brooding violence. We continue to build on top of blast beats until it gives away to a more mid-tempo, post-metal section that ends with a tense palm muted riff. This song in particular is a good example of the vocal trade offs between Sasha, Connor, and Daniel and the different styles used by them.
Lyrically the song is an internal dialogue of expectation and over-thinking that comes with making art. We place so much weight and guilt on not making the most of our lives to the point where we question the choices we -do- make and are unable to live in the moment.
8. Distended Empire – “consumed unaware in the furnaces”
At almost nine minutes this is the longest song on Our Hollow and is also the sludgiest. We struggled with the song for a while before fitting the underlying driving pulse into the verse. The second half of the song felt like it naturally sprung forth from the darkness of the first half. Most of us have previous experience playing post-rock, shoegaze, and screamo and we felt those influences intuitively came to light here.
This song was lyrically born from a feeling of being crushed by the constant unrelenting pace of capital. It was born from metaphors Daniel had sat on for quite some time, they felt resonant here.
9. You and I (Illuminated in Waves of Purpose) – “the self is a festering rot”
We wanted to end the album with something that truly felt like a culmination of what we had created on this record. This last part was the most worked on section on the entire album and we played it countless times making sure that it felt right, especially the interaction between the drums and bass as they push forward and build tension into that final release that ends the album. It was easily the most challenging song to nail down both compositionally and in its live execution. We wanted this to feel like a pinnacle, for the listener to feel harried, chaotic, uncomfortable before it breaks.
Social norms are like chains on our personalities and our bodies, limiting not only expression but also limiting the very thoughts that we are able to conceive. This can relate to gender, religion, political ideology, etc. To wish to deviate from the norm can be excruciating mentally and physically harmful when opposed by outside forces. These are all abstractions that bare little to no relation to material reality. The idea of being torn apart from this cultural hegemony and allowed to create oneself into something that we desire for ourselves is sort of a fantasy in a way since we cannot truly separate from the external culture but it is about that ideal of being able to be completely autonomous in our decisions with how we live our lives. We strive for a world in which people can be autonomous beings to the most achievable extent.