Malevolent Creation Envenomed

From its blistering riffage to its eye-popping Travis Smith cover art, the new Malevolent still takes multiple listens to realise that it's a career highpoint for this stalwart death act. Boasting the same line-up as 1998's The Fine Art of Murder, the Florida group most notably brings back the tried-and-true guitar solo. "Conflict" is the best example: long-time guitar shredder Phil Fasciana and former Cannibal Corpse axeman Rob Barrett trade licks to grand effect, while Hate Plow drummer Dave Culross keeps the pace feverish with grinding workouts. "Kill Zone" soars into the black metal stratosphere and "Halved" plots an old-school thrash attack like classic Slayer or new Usurper. "Serial Dementia" and "Bloodline Severed" open up for Fasciana's blazing solo work while main throat Brett Hoffmann continues to gargle turpentine like old Carcass. Even though it won't raise Malevolent out of their second-rung death metal band status, Envenomed is a convincing cut above the one-dimensional new releases from Immolation and Cannibal Corpse, and even flirts with welcomed progression like Broken Hope and Deicide. (Pavement)