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Album Reviews : Hadal Maw – Charlatan

By on August 7, 2018

Hadal Maw is moving from strength to strength as a band. They have followed up Olm (2017) with Charlatan – a shorter, more concise EP that explores a new development in the band’s sound and style. Immediately noticeable when playing the album is a shift in production style.

The super-polished, Meshuggah-esque production that characterised previous releases has given way to a much rawer production style that highlights the low end of the mix. The lower pedal tones provided by the guitar and bass are fat and punchy, while the drums are clear and give plenty of room for the rest of the band to shine without sacrificing intensity. My overall impression with Charlatan is that Hadal Maw has established a clear identity as a band; while their influences are still relatively clear, they’re not derivative, and Hadal Maw now sounds only like themselves. The EP has an organic feel to it and, while there was clearly attention paid to the composition, it doesn’t feel over-composed in a way that progressive-leaning bands can often be.

Opening track ‘Idolatry’ represents these factors clearly – the tech death elements are at the fore with some nice jazzy rhythmic jumps in places. Tight melodies are balanced by heavy, dissonant riffs, and the quieter moments offer a nice contrast paired with the clean vocals. The overall excellent musicianship on this track further underlines the cohesion of the songwriting and instrumentation. “Vilified” carries on this sense of balance between cohesion and contrast, with a strong groove opening the track and some great, twisted lead guitar melodies. This is a very modern sounding track, underscored by the lovely clean and proggy solo about halfway through, supported by a very industrial sounding bass riff. There’s a fantastic pedal tone riff just before the 5-minute mark that’s punch and heavy and highlights how well the raw mix complements the fat low-end of the guitar and bass. ‘White Elephant’ features more great grooves and riffs; special mention to the rhythmic disorientation achieved with the chorus riff that last for a tad longer than expected and actually forms a solid and engaging groove. A pair of songs close out the album, feeling more like two movements of a single piece rather than two separate songs (an idea further supported by the titling of them as part I and II in the track list).

A good balance is struck between the songs having their own musical identity and being inextricably linked with one another; “The Grand Serpent” sets up a great atmosphere with a slow-burning intro and some cool vocal effects, while “The Fevered Beast” retains this cohesion through to a calm choral outro. Overall this is an exciting taste of what’s to come. Hadal Maw has established a musical sound and identity that sets them apart from the sea of progressive death metal bands out there, progressing beyond Meshuggah-inspired rhythmic tricks into some excellent, heavy and engaging songwriting.

Band: Hadal Maw
Album: Charlatan
Year: 2018
Genre: Death Metal
Label: Independent
Origin: Australia


Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.