Malevolent Creation – Retribution review

June 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm (Reviews) (, , )

Retribution front

Roadrunner/Roadracer Records were essential to the early 90’s metal scene. Gorguts, Atheist, Deicide, Exhorder, Pestilence, Obituary, and Malevolent Creation released some of their best material on Roadrunner. After the commercial peak of death metal in the early 90’s Roadrunner dropped most of their roster in favor of radio-friendly rock. Metal fans will never forgive Monte Connor, the face of A&R for the label, but a record label is a business, not a foundation for the arts. Instead of being bitter, lovers of extreme metal should rejoice: without Roadrunner bands like Malevolent Creation wouldn’t have had the money to record in top studios like Morrisound in Florida.

Malevolent Creation had worked with Morrisound Studios to record 1991’s The Ten Commandments, but in 1992 they recorded what I feel is one of the best death metal albums ever. The production is unusual for Morrisound: the guitars are blurry and bass heavy while the drums sound have a more wooden resonance, unlike the usual clicky drum sound of the ’90s. The bass is spongy and wet, easily heard occupying the lower register. Bret Hoffman’s vocals are frighteningly upfront, with heavy reverb only applied at appropriate times. Bret doesn’t sound like the “cookie monster”, it doesn’t “all just sound like a bunch of unintelligible yelling”. The usual death metal vocal clichés just don’t apply: Bret is easily understood, and his voice sounds all-too-human.

The band talks of this album’s recording experience being one of their most laid-back. Phil Fasciana, lead guitar, has mentioned in interviews that it was essentially a 2-week party with microphones, but the result was a very tight and disciplined effort from a group of obviously skilled musicians. Every individual performance is extraordinary. But what makes this album above average is the final combination. The guitar parts are heavy at the right times, fast at the right times, but they would lack their attack without Alex Marquez’s drum performance. Retribution catches Marquez at his absolute peak. Retribution shows his ability to blast comfortably as well as perform catchy drum rolls that are guaranteed to have you air-drumming after a few listens. The drum patterns are essential for the rhythmic feel of the album, but Bret’s vocals compound the mesmerizing cadence of songs like “The Coldest Survive”. Sometimes the album’s tempo launches vicious surprise attacks, other times it lurches slowly and powerfully. Check out the groove at 1:09 in “No Flesh Shall Be Spared”: every individual part is good, but the combined result is mind-blowing.

“Slaughter of Innocence” and “Monster” have become live staples, but they aren’t the only good songs on the album. The undeniable groove of “Coronation of our Domain” and “No Flesh Shall Be Spared” compliments the ferocity of faster songs. “Mindlock” opens with my absolute favorite vocal pattern of all time, the combination of drum and vocal patterns make it undeniably catchy.

Malevolent Creation are tireless death metal workhorses, but have never come close to topping this album. Retribution simply set the bar too high. Bret’s voice would never again sound as thick and hateful. The guitar parts would never be as catchy. Marquez continued drumming for Malevolent for one more album, but soon after he lost steam and dropped out of the metal scene.

Over the course of 21 years and 10 full lengths, Malevolent Creation have had three vocalists, five guitarists, eleven drummers and seven bass players pass through their ranks. Retribution closes with a quote from hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski discussing his killing M.O.: “I’ve done it all ways, as far as you’ve known, or heard…there isn’t [sic] too many things I haven’t tried…”. With an endless supply of musicians coming and going, Malevolent Creation have tried many different formulas, but they’ve never topped the lethal combination of musicians on Retribution .

Pictures of the Japanese edition:

Retribution Japanese edition

Retribution Japanese edition

Retribution Japanese edition back

Retribution Japanese edition back


Malevolent Creation Myspace

Malevolent Creation Homepage (out of date)

Retribution Front and Back high-res scans



  1. Split Lentil said,

    Hi there,
    Retribution is indeed Malevolent’s best album. They never got close to making such a perfect album again. I also agree about Marquez. The songs of their first album don’t lack in inspiration, but they don’t have Marquez playing on them! He is the reason why this album is SO good. I am not sure if he quit after stillborn, though, because he plays on Solstice’s “pray” album (1995). The production is miserable, but Marquez is god.

    personal best songs: Slaughter of innocence, monster, the coldest survive, systematic execution

  2. transientwriting said,

    Hey, thanks for the comment! I actually haven’t heard “Pray,” just the self-titled. Which sounds almost identical to “Retribution,”. I recently asked James Murphy about “Solstice” and “Retribution” and he said they were recorded around the same 2 week period, and Marquez stayed at his place during the sessions. “Stillborn” is better than a lot of death metal out there but it is certainly kind of lacking in production and it’s not as tight. I still love it, though! Comment again sometime!

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