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Malevolent Force - "Theatre Of Madness" (CD)

Malevolent Force - "Theatre Of Madness" CD cover image

"Theatre Of Madness" track listing:

1. The Blackening
2. Victims Of Oppression
3. The Final Crusade
4. Tears Of The Fallen
5. Man On The Edge
6. Curtain Call
7. Vindiction
8. Eulogy (A Reckoning)

Reviewed by on March 8, 2012

"'Theatre Of Madness' is altogether a stellar, rounded showcase of talent."

Any seasoned rock music fan should know by now that instrumental songwriting is its own beast, where the absence of lead vocals presents a clear canvas for creativity. Problems occur, however, when overzealous shredders abuse that advantage and sail off into the eyeball-glazing realms of masturbatory spotlight hogging. Thankfully, Marc Rodriguez doesn’t have that problem. There’s no one else from whom to steal that spotlight.

Not only is Malevolent Force a one-man act, but musical Renaissance man Rodriguez has emphasized its status not as an indulgent “solo project,” but as a BAND – of which he happens to be the single member. That distinction does come with a difference. Such a lack of ego does subtle wonders for the music on his first LP “Theatre Of Madness,” an octet of balanced and fleshed-out metal songs of the traditional variety.

Opener “The Blackening” introduces itself in layers. A slow, stoned-out doomy crunch evolves into a backbone riff, and eventually ushers in what will prove the highlight of Malevolent Force, the creamy center: Rodriguez’ twin lead melodies and harmonies. “Victims Of Oppression” continues the pattern, but breaks for an eerie bridge laced with synths and keyboards. These nuanced surprises appear often, though the music is so cohesive, you might miss them altogether – the heroic soloing on “Tears Of The Fallen” is introduced and backed by a mournful organ, for instance.

“Man On The Edge” boasts perhaps the album’s catchiest riffs, equaled only by “Vindiction,” which quickens up the pace to a hearty Maidenesque gallop. The whole thing strongly evokes the early NWOBHM dawn – “The Final Crusade” captures the mid-to-late ‘70s in a bottle – when Sabbath was still everyone’s direct influence and the likes of Priest were breaking new and exciting ground. The relatively sparse indie-level production winds up bolstering this raw vibe, and brings Malevolent Force far closer to the mark than any fancy, label-backed nostalgia gimmick could hope to land: Rodriguez is simply working with what he has. The honesty and passion in his playing breathes life into these songs.

While the overall slow-to-medium pacing feels a little too consistent at points, and the album and track titles occasionally feel ripped straight from the hackneyed playbook adopted by the power metal movement, “Theatre Of Madness” is altogether a stellar, rounded showcase of talent. Rodriguez – aka Malevolent Force – gives short shrift to none of his abilities, and chooses to give them each a chance to shine in ways cleverer than lopsided wankery. The results are indeed memorable.

Highs: "The Final Crusade," "Man On The Edge," "Vindiction"

Lows: The track list could be spiced up at points with a little more speed; some of the titles come across as pretty corny.

Bottom line: Catchy instrumentals from a one-man act with an abiding love for, and a firm grasp of, traditional metal and hard rock.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)