After introducing themselves with their ruthless debut LP Reign Of Suffering back in 2013, Sheffield bruisers Malevolence’s fantastic sophomore effort Self Supremacy didn’t see the light of day until 2017, so as the band wait for the opportune moment to forge their third full-length, a three-track EP should be just enough to tide fans over.
The newly released The Other Side is a potent display of the band’s abilities. Opener ‘Remain Unbeaten’ is a timely reminder of what makes the band so exciting – hardcore antagonism, burly riffs, a swaggering groove and flourishes of technicality evident in amongst the heads-down brutality. Knocked Loose’s Bryan Garris shows up for ‘Keep Your Distance’ (an apt track title given the current situation), with Garris’ comparatively shrill screams playing off the guttural growls of Malevolence’s own Alex Taylor as the track rampages onward with intent. Most memorable here though is the title-track and closer, a melancholy power ballad that soon grows into something herculean in scale.
The EP has left us immensely excited to see what the band have in store for the future, but it also felt like a perfect time to reflect on all they’ve achieved thus far. They now have several brilliant releases under their belt, as well as massive tours in territories both near and far from home. They’ve collaborated with Carhartt on merch, sold out 1000-capacity venues and even built their own brand with the MLVLTD imprint.
Ahead of The Other Side’s release, we chatted to frontman Alex Taylor on the phone, and took the opportunity to look at the band’s beginnings as well as their future…
When I first got into you guys, your facebook page described your sound as “Lamb Of God and Hatebreed having a scrap while Pantera watches smoking a joint”. That’s pretty fucking accurate. Who do you think would win if that fight actually happened?
Oooooooh I dunno. Probably Hatebreed. Hatebreed is tough guy music.
Violent dancing is a large part of the culture from which Malevolence were birthed. My experience of this is that it meets some resistance when brought to larger audiences. How would you describe to an outsider why people dance this way?
I’d liken it to lads going to football on the weekend, getting smashed, having a few pints and having a bit of a ruckus. It’s not quite to the same degree, but it’s the same kind of mentality. And that’s not to say that girls don’t get stuck in as well. I see plenty of girls moshing and going harder than the blokes. It’s just an extra form of expression at the end of the day. I try not to get into the whole crowdkill debate, because it’s pretty lame. From my perspective, if people are having a good time and getting wild and enjoying themselves, that’s good for me. It’s when people start fighting then that’s a problem, but you also have to bear in mind that if you wanna chuck yourself around, that some people who are new to the scene or might not enjoy getting a foot to the face, they might be there, so you’ve got to bear that in mind. There’s a time and place for it. But at the end of the day, the music is energetic, we hype people up, you’ve got to expect it a bit with the territory. As long as people are having a good time, that’s what matters.
I saw a tweet recently about how metalheads will listen to songs about women being dismembered, but get upset when you wear puffer jackets and tracksuits in videos. How have you been received by the wider metal community over the years? Is there a degree to which people have reacted more strongly to how you guys dress than how you guys sound?
Don’t get me wrong, all of Malevolence are fully greebos. We listen to plenty of death metal. Just because we wear Nike and stuff, it doesn’t make us any less moshers than the next man, It’s just banter, innit. But yeah, 100%. Especially in the metal scene, that’s one of the first things they pick up on. Bear in mind that the metal community is meant to be this open-minded community of people. They see a couple of lads dressed in Nike tracksuits and become very closed-minded, when in fact we’re probably more into the genre that they’ll ever be. Stuff like that, I don’t waste energy. We’ll openly take the mick out of it.
More and more, I am seeing bands collaborating with clothing brands. How did the Carhartt merch drop come about, and what other brands would you like to collab with?
To be honest mate, it was our bass player Wilkie who hooked it up. He linked it through someone, and it came about. In terms of brands I’d like to collaborate with, I’m pretty open to anyone really. I wear enough North Face that that’d be the obvious one, it’s definitely a running joke amongst our fans that I like North Face. You know what though, with the Carhart drop, it just came at the right time. It’s cool but I’m not overly bothered by it. If people like it, we’ll do it.
Rich from Desolated told me at a show ages ago that MLVLTD is a state of mind. That was a long time ago, and since then a lot has happened. What is MLVLTD, and what have you enjoyed about the process of self-releasing music and overseeing the creative process yourself?
MLVLTD is essentially our brand which we’ve built up from the start. It started when we got into hanging out with Desolated, and it’s morphed. It’s basically a business now. We do MLVLTD tours, we put on shows, we hire out vans. We’ve got MLVLTD Music, which we set up because we wanted to release new music and to try something new. We chose to self-release The Other Side because for a three-track EP it made more sense to do it ourselves. We’ve always been very independent anyway, so putting it out ourselves seemed like the best route.
One thing which has always made Malevolence stand out for me is the quality of musicianship. You’ve nailed a really hard line between technical and ignorant. How has the writing process changed since Sheffield Shred got released? Is it methodical or does it change from release to release?
So a lot of the time, Josh will come and bring a load of riffs to the table, and some basic songs, and then we’ll go through them and change and restructure a few things and think about where we’re going to put vocals. Then me and Wilkie [Robinson, bass] will sit for hours and hours and think about what we’re trying to say with each song. Wilkie and I write most of the lyrics, so we’ll jam a few ideas and write some stuff for Kon [Hall, guitar] too. It comes together quite organically and naturally really, the way we write is pretty unique. That’s probably why it takes so long, we’re very picky with the music we put out so it does take us a while. We’re never going to be one of those bands that can churn out an album every two or three years, we just do it when we’re ready to and it has worked for us that way. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
You guys bust out covers live every so often, and I’ve seen a few from Lamb Of God to Irate and Hatebreed. Which is your favourite cover to play live?
Favourite one? Hatebreed. It’s hard and the beatdown is hard. I can’t even remember the song. ‘Driven By Suffering’, that’s the one.
Who is the hardest MC in the UK right now?
Your lyrical content has evolved a little over your releases. While a lot of your lyrics still deal with hardships and suffering, there’s now a strong theme of self-determination and perseverance in your writing. Can you discuss the thought process behind this a little?
I think that when we wrote the first album we were quite young. It was about ten years ago when we wrote that album. I’m 26 now, so the things I was thinking about when I was 16 are no longer really relevant to me. The whole cliché thing of writing about sorrow and misery and stuff, I wanted to step away from that and write something that is going to motivate people and that people can take something away from instead of just being the same old shite. It’s matured with age, and we have all made a collective decision that we want the lyrics to be relevant to the times. Especially on the song ‘Remain Unbeaten’, that song really does mean a lot to me. It’s almost like a lyrical follow on from Self Supremacy. It’s trying to portray a message to the listener to remain unbeaten, no matter what life throws at you, even in the face of the struggles people are facing all over the world right now. You can get through it, and you will get through it, you’ve just got to keep your head held high.
We are at a weird and exciting point right now where a lot of really heavy bands are also getting very big. Desolated sell out pretty much every show they play now. Knocked Loose have clothes out in Hot Topic, and Malev have played shows all over the planet now. What is something you’ve achieved with Malevolence which you’d never have expected ten years ago?
I guess getting to tour the places that we have done, see all these different cultures and meet new people. I never thought I’d get to tour America, or Australia or Asia, so they are probably my top three things. That’s not to discredit any of the things we have done in the UK. I never thought we’d sell out 1000-capacity venues in Sheffield, or sell out runs of UK dates. I never thought it would get to this point, but we are running with it, and I am enjoying it, and we are gonna keep doing it until we no longer enjoy it. There are so many things we have gotten to experience that looking back on it, it is a lot to be proud of.
One thing I will say is that see you guys on tour is fucking wholesome. You have so much fun, and you have a really organic and honest way of portraying that to your fans through social media and it is lovely to see.
Absolutely. We are never going to be one of those bands who sit in the dressing room being miserable, we will go out and make the most of it. I am essentially touring the world with my best mates init, so why not?
Which bands should we be keeping our eye on in the UK right now?
Revulsion. They have just dropped a record through Beatdown Hardware Tecords. Very underrated band. Go check them out.
The Other Side is out now on MLVLTD Music. Order here.
Intro: George Parr
Interview: Alex Rover