by Niklas Göransson
Malefic Throne is an American death metal powerhouse featuring Morbid Angel frontman Steve Tucker, Origin drummer John Longstreth, and Gene Palubicki of Perdition Temple. Gene, the band’s guitarist, speaks of breaking the boundaries of metal.
– A few months after the COVID lockdowns were rolled out, there was this stupid story in the news about so-called ‘murder hornets’. What’s funny about this is how everyone suddenly thought it was some new phenomenon to be afraid of, despite the fact that these things are not even fatal to most humans. But sure, I guess people who get some kind of weird allergic reaction may become very sick or even die.
The Asian giant hornet is a winged monstrosity which is originally from Japan but has recently made an appearance in the US; they are about five centimetres (two inches) in length and equipped with stingers capable of puncturing a beekeeper’s suit. Also known as murder hornets, they kill around fifty people in Japan on an annual basis. Even for those who are spared fatal complications, being stung by a murder hornet is reportedly anything but pleasant as their venom is riddled with neurotoxins potent enough to inflict severe pain lasting unabated for up to a day.
– Just as a gag, Steve put up a post on his personal social media page saying something to the effect of, ‘Imagine having a band called The Murder Hornets! How come I never thought of that before?’ And then John responded, ‘Yeah, and I could play the drums!’ I happened to see this and added, ‘To hell with it – let’s do it. Why not?’ We were obviously joking, and nothing came out of it at first, but a lot of people reacted like, ‘Wow, now that would actually be an interesting combination!’
About a week or so later, John messaged Gene just to say hi. Besides the aforementioned social media exchange, the two of them hadn’t spoken for quite a while.
– As we were talking, I thought of something: ‘Hey, remember that little laugh we had recently? It just occurred to me that if the three of us really did this, it could potentially turn some heads. People might be interested.’ We started talking about it more seriously and I was like, ‘John, would you have time for something like this?’ Him and I hadn’t played together for twenty years.
John Longstreth was the original drummer of Gene’s old band, ANGELCORPSE. He played on the “Goats to Azazael” demo and first two records: “Hammer of Gods” from 1996 and the 1998 “Exterminate”. Longstreth was also the session drummer on the 2007 ANGELCORPSE comeback album “Of Lucifer and Lightning” – but it was recorded remotely without them ever being in the same room.
– Then we hit Steve up: ‘You know that murder hornet thing we were joking about? What if we did that for real – just to see what happens?’ And he was into it. Obviously, there were no live shows going on with either of our bands; all of us were grounded, so the timing was perfect. I knew I’d be able to dive right in and come up with some new material within the confines of this new line-up, so we decided to go for it.
What did you have in mind for the music?
– I wanted to create something which wasn’t just reflective of my own background, but that also leaned somewhat towards the histories of the other members. Now, that’s not to say I was trying to make it sound like one of my bands combined with MORBID ANGEL and ORIGIN. Nevertheless, I was conscious of the idea that MALEFIC THRONE was meant to incorporate elements which – at least to my interpretation – might have been more relevant to their past projects than something I’ve done with any of my bands.
In 2019, after the second demise of ANGELCORPSE, Gene founded death metal band PERDITION TEMPLE. He had previously dabbled with BLASPHEMIC CRUELTY and APOCALYPSE COMMAND – both of which are now dissolved.
– So, even though MALEFIC THRONE has a clear element of what could be identified as ‘my sound’ or whatever, I do things within the songwriting and arrangement of riffs that might not be entirely in line with, say, PERDITION TEMPLE. Basically, I try to create a framework for the music and the whole flow of structures that gels more organically with the backgrounds of the other members, if that makes sense? Anyway, instead of just spending a bunch of our own money putting out an independently produced tape, I hit on the idea of contacting Hells Headbangers to check if they’d be interested.
They were – MALEFIC THRONE’s self-titled EP was released by Hells Headbangers in January 2022.
– The EP is essentially a commercially released demo, so to speak – it was the first handful of songs we wrote. I figured we should try to spread as much awareness of it as possible, because nowadays you have thousands of bands coming out every few weeks. It’s a lot more difficult than it was twenty years ago when there were only a hundred or so newcomers in six months’ time. Now that anyone can record in their bedroom, you have a massive flow of what’s available; not necessarily the best stuff, but all this combined makes it hard for people to find things.
The EP contains three original compositions plus a MALEFIC THRONE interpretation of SODOM’s “Nuclear Winter”. Cover song aside, there is nothing nostalgic about this. Ever since the early days of ANGELCORPSE, Gene Palubicki has constantly been pushing the boundaries of musical extremity. He’s previously stated his opinion that it’s the bands striving to create the most ‘maniacal metal possible’ who do real homage to the metal spirit, as opposed to those who don’t even attempt to innovate anything but merely recycle the works of others.
– If you take a band that’s just going absolutely berserk, trying to make metal which is just audially over the top and ultra-aggressive… even if they don’t sound like one of the classic acts from the roots of this movement, that’s far more in step with what it should be all about than those who just note for note, point by point, copy VENOM, DESTRUCTION, SLAYER and so on. That’s taking the spirit out of this music, doing a paint-by-numbers – almost as if they’re tourists making something they don’t really feel like playing, but just figure there might be a market for.
From reading quite a few ANGELCORPSE interviews from the 90s, I’ve noticed that Gene rarely exhibited much raw emotion. However, one notable exception was whenever the topic of ‘retro-thrash’ came up; he really, really didn’t care for this wave at all.
– I never understood the motivational drive there, because the whole idea – especially with speed and thrash metal – was to go one step further from what you were already listening to. Hearing heavy guitars and fast drums, you should be like, ‘Okay, this is great. Now I want to have even heavier guitars and faster drums!’ So, to literally try to turn back the clock and say, ‘Well, let’s slow everything back down and make it sound a bit softer’… and that’s not to take a shot at the classic albums: they were great in their time for what the production capabilities and the musicianship were and remain some of my favourite records today. But to be a new band and backpedal like that… I just couldn’t get behind it.
Around the turn of the millennium, veterans such as SODOM, DESTRUCTION, ASSASSIN, KREATOR, and TANKARD returned to the stage and drew significantly more interest than at any point in the 90s. It was in the wake of this ‘thrash revival’ that these retro bands – many of which were side-projects of black metal musicians – emerged.
– They were basically plagiarising certain key albums both aesthetically and stylistically, like “Infernal Overkill” from DESTRUCTION or something reminiscent of a more aggressive MOTÖRHEAD, et cetera. You know, not really doing anything to make it their own. The only thing separating them from the classic acts was that the latter were trying to do something which sounded fresh, whereas these ‘retro’ outfits thought they were being inventive by copying what those who came before them did ten to fifteen years earlier. I don’t think that scene or movement ever took off though; most of those bands put out a record or two and then went away.
Is there anything equivalent going on today?
– Yeah, there seems to be a weird resurgence of doing that 80s American speed metal kind of thing. I don’t follow any of it very closely, but just from seeing band photos and hearing a little bit of music here and there they are clearly trying to do a sort of modern take on the retro throwback sound. But I don’t really care about these matters anymore – I focus on evolving my own projects. I guess what you hear in MALEFIC THRONE’s material is probably seeded in that sort of boundary-pushing thinking. As time goes by, we’ll probably develop more of what will define the apotheosis of our sound, but at this point we’re just at the very beginning.
The EP has been out for a while now – what has the response been like?
– I’ve seen some reviews by various webzines and whatnot, which have been mostly positive. I mean, some have said, ‘It’s just more death metal sounding like any other band’ – and there’s always gonna be people reacting that way. But I’ve mainly seen positive feedback, especially considering that it’s just a mini album. Actually, I guess the only real complaints I’ve heard from anyone is that they wished it would’ve been a full-length right at the beginning instead of an EP.
What is the status on that?
– We already have five new songs, and then we want a few more. So, when the time comes to record an album, we’re definitely ahead of the game. At some point, the full-length will materialise and then people will get a dose of what we’re doing over the course of a long player. Right now, we’re reaching out to contacts here and there to see what we might be able to arrange in terms of live activity. That would be great for me, since the line-ups between PERDITION TEMPLE and MALEFIC THRONE are entirely different. Meaning, if one band isn’t playing live then I might be able to do shows with the other. This is definitely something that all three of us are looking at as much more than just a side project.