EP Review: Hadal Maw - Charlatan

Artist: Hadal Maw Album: Charlatan Genre: Technical Death Metal Release Date: 3 August 2018

Review by Samantha Wolsteholme

Unstoppable technical death metal force Hadal Maw are a star on the rise in Australia’s extreme metal scene. Since their inception in 2010, the five-piece have released two albums to critical acclaim and shared the stage with the likes of Decapitated, Suffocation, Beyond Creation, Psycroptic and many more. With the imminent release of their EP “Charlatan”, Hadal Maw shows no signs of slowing down; the EP promises to be their most brutal, aggressive and ambitious offering yet, realising the band’s vision of “creating the most oppressive sound in the genre”. A bold assertion? Certainly. But overall, in all its overwhelming, relentless brutality, the tight and tempestuous 5-track EP succeeds in shaping if not THE most oppressive sound in the genre, at the very least a force to be reckoned with.

Opening track “Idolatry” catapults us straight into the eye of the hurricane, greeting us with Sam Dillon’s feral scream combined with relentless blast beats and driving, dissonant guitar riffs. The track continues on in its ear-splitting sonic assault with the guitars alternating between increasingly downtuned chugs and fleeting licks, reminiscent of Necrophagist and Beyond Creation. Rob Brens’ extraordinarily tight and creative drum work is a standout, demonstrating the level of technical skill that is always so admirable in the top-brass bands of this genre.

“Vilified” follows, offering an interesting contrast to the quintessential brutal death metal of “Idolatry” – in this track, the guitars are tuned down further, the drum lines acquire a cymbal-driven heavy groove, and Dillon gets the chance to show off a more diverse harsh vocal range. There are strong Meshuggah flavours here, and the ferocious five-piece pull off this change of pace with finesse throughout six minutes of cleverly progressive songwriting. “White Elephant” continues the brutal grooves of “Vilified”, and halfway through the track seamlessly integrates blast beats, mournful yet piercing lead guitar countermelodies and rasping harshes steadily mounting in intensity to culminate in a unique soundscape of unparalleled aggression.

“Charlatan I The Grand Serpent” is the EP’s most unpredictable, indeed almost schizophrenic, track yet. Slow and deliberate passages are cut abruptly to unrelenting, oppressive whirlwinds of sound, and then unexpectedly back again. An epic exercise in tremolo picking if ever there was one. The elements are suddenly stripped back at the end of the track, where an interesting extended dance between syncopated drums and pulsating rhythm section leads us effortlessly into “Charlatan II Fervent Beasts” for one last brutal hurrah.

All in all, “Charlatan” stands out with its excellent production, technical virtuosity and unapologetic brutality. A lengthy and powerful EP, it highlights the skill and musicianship that its writers have come to be known for. Though I feel “Charlatan” could have benefited from an expansion of the stylistic diversity it hinted at in some tracks, this work will definitely please any discerning fan of extreme metal.

8 out of 10.

Pre-orders: https://hadalmaw.bandcamp.com/album/charlatan

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