With their DIY ethics and incendiary live shows, UK metallers Malevolence have brought their own, hardcore-infused brand of Sheffield steel to fans across the globe – and have reaped a cult following in the process. On the eve of the release of the band’s new EP, Rushonrock’s Rich Holmes caught up with vocalist Alex Taylor to get the lowdown on the band’s rise…and why their musical palette is expanding.
Malevolence, by their own admission, are a picky band when it come to their own music. With only two albums under the belts since their 2010 inception, the Sheffield bruisers certainly like to take their time. Any songs which make it onto record pass through a high grade filter.
But fans eagerly awaiting a follow-up to 2017’s Self Supremacy will at least have their thirst slaked by the quintet’s upcoming new EP, The Other Side.
“Malevolence have a habit of leaving the gaps between our albums for quite a while,” confirms frontman Alex Taylor. “We are never going to be one of these bands who churn out an album every one or two years. We spend a lot of time on the writing process.
“We knew we wanted to put out an EP or a short body of work while we were writing for the next album. We wanted to put something out for people to enjoy – and to keep ourselves busy – while we were writing: a short three track seemed like the most appropriate route to take.”
Produced by Carl Brown (who has worked with the likes of Trivium and Bullet For My Valentine) The Other Side boasts Keep Your Distance, a pummelling thrash/hardcore hybrid and the granite-heavy grooved-up call to arms, Remain Unbeaten.
The title track, however, is a spine-tingling, semi-acoustic ballad which boasts a stunning vocal performance from guitarist Konan Hall and sees Malevolence stray deep into melodic waters. It’s a drastic departure from their trademark, Hatebreed and Crowbar-inspired sonic onslaught. Yet it still flexes some powerful muscles.
“From the moment I heard the song without any vocals on it from Josh (Baines, guitar), I knew it would be something completely different to what we have done before,” reveals Taylor. “We had put our foot into that melodic style before, but we had never really taken the plunge. This was an opportunity to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and try something new, but also keep it ‘Malevolence’.
“It was a lot of fun to write and it was a bit of a challenge because we had never really sampled anything so melodic as that. Kon really put a lot of effort into perfecting the vocal melodies. He pushed himself out of his comfort zone with that style of singing.”
The frontman continues: “This is what this EP is about, trying new avenues that we have never done before in every sense, from the artwork to the production, to the song writing.
“At the end of the day we like playing heavy metal, so will never go fully soft but I think it is cool to show your versatility and challenge yourself a little bit.”
One thing the new release has in common with previous work is the appearance of a guest vocalist. Andrew Neufeld of Canadian hardcore stalwarts Comeback Kid and Kevin Muller from Long Island death crew The Merciless Concept both lent their talents to Self Supremacy. This time around, it was the turn of Knocked Loose frontman Brian Garris to step up, with the Kentucky singer’s abrasive roar working in tandem with Taylor’s vocals on Keep Your Distance.
So how did that collaboration come about? “I’ve been into Knocked Loose for quite a while now,” replies Taylor. “When we toured the US some of the guys came out to some of our shows and we met them there, and ever since then we have been good friends. We have stayed in touch and we have ended up playing some festivals and some small tours with them. They are a great bunch of guys.”
When Knocked Loose toured the UK in December to support their headline grabbing A Different Shade Of Blue album, they brought their South Yorkshire buddies along for the ride.
Taylor continues: “We knew before we did that tour that we wanted to have Brian on the track. He seemed like an obvious choice. Brian is a good friend and has a very unique style of vocals: as soon as you hear it you know exactly who it is.
“We did the guest vocal spot a day before we went on that tour, they had a few days off and luckily we had time to get in the studio and get it hammered out. We didn’t have to go through management or anything like that, I just sent him an Instagram message and he was like, ‘yep!’.
“I think that’s the thing in our scene, it’s just a case of hitting someone up directly and saying, ‘Yo, do you want to jump on a track?. I would much rather do that any day than jump through a load of hoops. I want someone on the song that actually wants to be there.”
Unlike many young UK bands playing extreme music – whether they’re hardcore or metal – the Sheffield quintet have been very successful in expanding their reach overseas. Their alliances with the likes of Knocked Loose and Comeback Kid speak for themselves, while January saw Malevolence take to the dusty highways of Australia in support of LA hardcore kings Terror.
So why have the band been able spread their wings far outside the Don Valley?
“Our dedication to travel and seeing the world,” is their singer’s response. “The main reason why we are in this band is to go and do that. A lot of the opportunities we have been given so far…we have worked hard to get them, messaging people ourselves, throwing ourselves into making it happen, like the Australian tour.
“So far it has been off our own backs mainly and we have just hit up the right people who have managed to make it happen and bring us out there, which I am eternally grateful for. It is hard graft. We have always been a band who have worked hard to get to where we are, we have never jumped any steps.
“Also, the music we write appeals to such a wide market but also a niche market in the same sense. Sometimes we don’t fit in with the bands that we are on tour with but there are still elements that I think a lot of people who are into heavy music will like. And I think that has worked well for us in terms of word of mouth.
“We are quite versatile. We can jump on a hardcore band package even though we are quite metal for a hardcore band package. And the same goes for a metal package, even though we have mosh parts and beatdowns the metal guys still appreciate the blastbeats and the riffs. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, that’s part and parcel of it, but for the most part it seems to have worked quite well.
“The people who have been coming to our shows in the UK for the last 10 years are still coming now. We have built our way up in terms of fanbase.”
The band’s Yorkshire grit is also applied to running their own label, MLVLTD Music. The Other Side will be released via the label on April 24 and MLVLTD Music is also home to Sheffield HC mob Rough Justice (featuring Josh Baines on guitar) and UK metallic hardcore outfit Desolated, plus a department store’s worth of merch.
The label gives Malevolence their own springboard. And it clearly means a lot to them: Taylor says that it underlines their hands-on approach to running the band.
The frontman explains: “When we have worked with labels in the past it’s been good, we have never had any issues but with just a short body of work like this it was the obvious choice to go (with MLVLTD Music). It has given us complete control over the whole process and we have been able to go at our own pace.”
The band’s rise, Taylor says, has been entirely self-funded, made possible by a growing and hugely supportive legion of fans who buy their records and merch, who stream their music or watch Malevolence on YouTube.
“It has been refreshing to do it this way,” he says. “It has been a lot of fun. There have been challenges and things we didn’t expect along the way of course, like when it comes to getting vinyl pressed in a global pandemic… but it’s all part of the journey.”
And it also helps Malevolence that, according to the singer, the UK scene is currently in a strong position: “There are a lot of kids coming out and supporting the bands. It’s partly due to bands like ourselves but also bands from around the world – Knocked Loose is a massive one.
“And then there is a lot of the heavier underground bands who are keeping that raw energy and are from the UK, like Cold Hold Truth and Revulsion from Scotland – they have just put out a new record which is awesome.
“There is a lot of good talent coming out of the UK right now. It’s a good time for people to be cracking on and putting out some good music.”
However, Taylor isn’t going to put a time frame on a new Malevolence full-length – especially as, like the rest of the UK’s population, the band’s members are currently confined to their homes.
But when album number three does see the light of day, it’s a fair bet that it won’t be a half-hearted, filler-heavy let down…
“We just want to make sure that it is our best material and that we keep elevating with every release,” the singer assures us. “To keep improving and to keep enjoying it.”