Do you know what the Maloik is?
Yes you do. Trust me, even if you think you don’t, you do.
Fold your thumb and two middle fingers into the palm of your hand and keep your index finger and your pinky extended. There. That’s the Maloik. Everybody does it. My mom does it. Miley Cyrus does it. This despite its infamous but inaccurate nickname, “throwing up the devil’s horns.”
It’s the unofficial gang sign of headbangers everywhere, and it’s been adopted by the mainstream as an all-purpose hand-symbol for all things kick-ass. It’s not to be confused with the sign-language for “I love you,” and despite whatever Gene Simmons might tell you, he did not invent it. Ronnie James Dio did.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. Dio didn’t technically invent it, but he did popularize it. It derives from Italian superstition, wherein making the sign with fingers pointing at someone constitutes you giving them “the evil eye,” or cursing them. Making the sign with fingers pointing up into the air, as it is usually done, represents protection from the evil eye. Kind of ironic that it’s often misinterpreted as being Satanic in nature.
What does any of this have to do with the Buzzherd album “On Sinking Ships… Rats Drown”? Nothing really, except that it features a track titled “The Maloik” and that gave me an opening to go off on a self-indulgent tangent.
If I wanted to, I could make a half-assed attempt to tie in said tangent by saying it’s equally ironic that Buzzherd, who churns out music so abrasive and foreboding one assumed it could only come from the pits of Hell, actually hails from Bethlehem, PA, a town named after the supposed birthplace of Jesus Christ. But that would be cheesy.
Anyway, Buzzherd has this great song called “The Maloik.” Another great song is called “Gigas,” which is an alternate name for giants in fantasy fiction as well as part of the title of “The Codex Gigas,” a medieval tome also known as “The Devil’s Bible” which has some cool lore surrounding it involving shit like people getting walled up alive and making Luciferian pacts. Nifty, eh?
Yet another great song is called “Indrid Cold,” inspired by a cryptic figure with the appropriately chilling nickname “The Grinning Man” who is talked about in paranormal research circles and who is allegedly either an alien or the Mothman of West Virginia. Or possibly both.
So basically the members of Buzzherd are a bunch of weird, cool dudes into some very weird, cool stuff. Fortunately, their music is just as weird and cool. I’m talking punky, pissed-off sludge-metal that’s more interested in pummeling you to a pulp than giving you a soundtrack for a smoky night of bong hits. Even when dabbling in fog-shrouded psychedelia, such as in the ambient cemetery-at-midnight opening of “The Maloik,” Buzzherd never fails to bring brutality back to the fore.
There’s no confusing this for NOLA-style sludge. This could only have come from the East Coast. The vocals are strictly death-metal/hardcore-style throat-rending savagery, while guitars burn through fuzz with crusty, squalling, low-tuned thrash which often pleasantly surprises in fits of Iron Maiden/Judas Priest-y harmony.
The songs themselves are bottom-loaded with bass for maximum gravity, then fleshed out with bluesy, Black Sabbath grooves. Endless waves of crashing cymbals give the beast a glimmering suit of armor, turning it into a bulletproof engine of death.
Rarely does one find a band that feels both slow and fast at the same time, and, more than that, does it well. “On Sinking Ships…” is a hulking colossus with a mouth full of chainsaws instead of teeth. It’s got the ominous atmosphere and the elephantine riffage of stoner doom, but once it get you in its mitts it’s more like a roid-raging monter than a lethargic pothead.
Seriously, Buzzherd will rip you to shreds.
Choice cuts: “Indrid Cold,” “The Maloik,” “Gigas”