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The proverbial Heavy Metal battlefield, strewn with acts lost forever in the mythology of the genre’s rise, fall, and ascension, on occasion spits forth an old name re-risen, carrying its sword into battle once again. Surely the Metal world thought L. A.’s Malice, a band never to be heard from again; a victim of bad management and poor record label support, another “just missed” among the throngs of 80’s bands with the chops for success got lost in the quagmire of the era. But in 2006 a rumbling began which saw the reformation of Malice, leading to European tour dates and sparking the interest of renowned German Metal Label Steanhammer/SPV, and thus a new album thirty years after their formation, New Breed Of The Godz.
The obvious problem for bands like Malice, defined by a sound and an era a quarter decade old, is how to keep things fresh and interesting without losing the essence of who they were. They released two albums in the 80’s, In The Beginning (1985) and License To Kill (1986) and an E.P., Crazy In The Night (1989). Though their music was met with tons of critical success, accolades on the sales front never followed. Still, their legend included an over the top front man (James Neal) with an energy anybody would find tough to replicate let alone surpass. So how should they revive Malice for the new millennium? Jay Reynolds, founding guitarist responds, “When we did the deal with SPV , the idea was to re introduce the band to the metal fans. Although a lot of people know and dig Malice, there are legions of fans that have never heard us. So to kick it off, we picked the four heaviest songs off In The Beginning and the same with License To Kill and wrote four brand new songs to tie it all together. So it’s a best of, and yet a whole new record. We tried to put a more modern heavy sound on the older songs, and after all these years we are better players too. The real point is that the new Malice has that intangible chemistry that makes certain bands special.”
Going into recording New Breed Of The Godz, Malice also had a solid archetype to follow, “Joe Floyd (producer) and I used Andy Sneap’s blueprint from Accept’s, Blood of the Nations, when we began pre-production on New Breed Of The Godz. That was again to figure out the things on our first records that made us click, that gave us our identity, and expound on that.” Where the German legends captured the essence of their sound with their latest opus, Malice takes the philosophy a step further. There’s no doubt they’ve firmly entrenched themselves in metal, stripping away the 80’s inspired rock ‘n’ roll bits, updating themselves squarely as a full-fledged power-driven onslaught and unapologetically Metal. Malice have simultaneously appropriated the heavy constituents of their hey day while managing to re-define themselves for a modern audience.
We could have been the next band from L.A., to break big in 1985. Hindsight is a bitch…
As with most of the bands from Metal’s classic era, it’s interest from fans abroad that sparks reunions and rebirths such as what’s happening with the now older boys from Malice. Unlike America, where there’s often only about a five-minute opening to slip through towards fame and fortune, places like Europe and Greece seem to grasp the idea that if it was once good art, it’s always good art. Looking back, Jay recognizes that a few different moves and maybe a slight break might have changed the legend of Malice forever. “We could have been the next band from L.A., to break big in 1985. Hindsight is a bitch, you know we should have released the Michael Wagener demos in 1983 as an independent record and we would have caught the early 80’s wave. By 85, there was a glut of bands, and we also had bad management. So bad timing , and bad management kept us from reaching our potential.” But in spite of this, Mr. Reynold’s appreciates the wider metal fan base that sees Malice as more than just another 80’s band. Much more than casual pop music fans, metal heads stay loyal forever. “Everywhere I toured with Metal Church for example, fans would bring all the Malice stuff to the show to get autographed . People always asked about the chance of a reunion. So here we are! The Metal Community around the globe is fuckin’ awesome, and it’s what I live for.”
Lest there be some mistake, Malice aren’t a bunch of guys who just pulled their gear out of storage in order to give things another go. On the contrary, we’re talking about guys who have continued developing their chops over the years. Mick and Mark formed Monster, exploring the hard rock side of things, while for Reynolds, “the years I spent with Metal Church were the most productively formidable of the years after Malice. We may possibly do the Metal Church thing again; Kurdt and I are still close and working on songs. With the Malice guys, we all still stayed in touch through the 90’s, and that made it easy to start over in 2006.” And two notable additions to Malice, on vocals, the one and only James Rivera, a Metal torch-bearer through four decades, and Pete Holmes former Black ‘N’ Blue drummer and top-notch skin beater, round out the current line-up as a Super group in the underground Metal world of today. On the new tracks Robert Cardenas (Agent Steel) takes over Bass duties as well. If there ever was an issue with Malice in the past, their drummers often weren’t up to standard when compared to the rest of super talented members of the band. “Pete has brought more solidity to the band and makes it so easy to play the songs. A band is only as good as its drummer. And Bobby (Cardenas) stepped right in when Mark couldn’t commit to the band full-time. He was in our circle of friends and he is an amazing player.”
Though original vocalist James Neal is no longer a blip on the Metal radar, he still left big shoes to fill. Neal’s soaring Halford-esque vocals and larger than life stage persona remain legend among the hardcore fans, but it is the Rivera style that guides Malice towards the future. New Breed of The Godz is definitively a Metal record, and who better to lead the charge than a guy like Rivera, who can not only handle just about anything vocally, but is a stalwart of Metal, a guy who bridges the gap between the 80’s and the Modern Metal sound. “With James [Rivera] we wanted to recapture the heaviest elements of what made Malice great, and show a bit of that the band is capable of moving forward.” Rivera in some ways has been a journeyman of sorts. With the exception of Helstar, he has moved from band to band, always hitting the mark live and on tape. Flying under the radar, he’s crafted a well grooved niche for himself as the guy who saves the day, combining the high-pitched falsetto style of 80’s Metal with the ferocious bark of a modern Metal vocalist. Without a doubt, he’s the perfect guy for Malice moving forward.
But as always, the core of Malice remains the guitar duo of Jay Reynolds and Mick Zane. Listening to the re-recorded tracks compared to their 80’s predecessors, the longtime mates have advanced their awesome interplay, great crunchy tone, and even introduce some sweet double leads. Nowadays, they’re more polished, more focused on song structure, less idealizing of speed and gratuitous solos. “Mick and I have played guitar together off and on for 30 years , so that chemistry thing is really evident. Plus after all these years , we are both better players. I can’t wait to see what we can come up with on the next record! I also want to say, Mick is one of the most under-rated guitarists around today.”
Just like the old days, the hope is to rebuild the Malice legend the same place as thirty years ago, the road. Reynolds adds, ” I love touring and playing live period. I think that is the reward for all the hard work that is put in behind the scenes. We start in July with a two-week warm-up run , and plan on a real world tour in Fall. I’d like to play more , but we do have to rebuild the band’s status. The plan after July is a tour of the U.S. with two other big time 80’s metal bands, a trip to Europe that may only be a few weeks , and possibly South America. If I had my way, we would be out there for a year!” And with the changing record industry, a year may be what it takes for Malice, or anyone else for that matter, to be profitable. ” In the 80’s , you went on tour to support the record hoping to go gold or platinum. Today, you make records (as more of an artistic statement) so you can go on tour and sell merch. The road is the fun, the work and the paycheck. So things have been reversed for bands at this level, but it is possible to make a nice living!”
And so the show goes on. Time stops for no man, but the art of heavy metal carries with it a spirit which breathes new life into bands and fans alike. The fact that Malice returns triumphant gives testament to the stout heartedness of not only the band, but the heavy metal culture as a whole.