It was shortly after one in the morning when I opened my laptop and made my way to the Metropolis website. It was the 11th of September, and Velvet Acid Christ’s Maldire was just made available for purchase. I hastily bought the album, along with the t-shirt that featured Quartier Macbre’s beautiful and gruesome artwork. I clamped my headphones over my head and pushed play.
Wicked harmonies ensued. Bryan’s curse was cast. My ears bled.
I discovered the music of VAC in 1998 by happenchance in a used CD store in Utah (of all places). I was flipping through a pile of CD cases when I came across Church of Acid. The eye-catching artwork garnered my attention, so I pulled it out of the pile and listened to the disk in the store. I was immediately enthralled. Never before had I heard music that so accurately paralleled my own anger, isolation, and depression so elegantly—and with such intense malevolence.
I’ve been a fan ever since, following Bryan’s career and evolution with enthusiasm.
Maldire is an excellent throwback to some of his earlier work on Fun With Knives and Twisted Thought Generator, combined with a more experienced, developed sense of sound and structure that occupies Lust for Blood and The Art of Breaking Apart.
The album begins with an audio clip from the television series Dark Shadows, an ideal way to launch Maldire with the incantation of “charred and blackened clouds that reigned (or rained for the pun) at your beginning.” Indeed the gloomy clouds gather thick and heavy as the track unfolds with weighty, thunderous beats that threaten to crack your skull, while layers of synths mercilessly pummel your ears. Then Bryan’s booming vocals tunnel into your mind with the perfect amount of maliciousness. By the end of the song, my own heart was scorched forever black by this blight evoked.
“Maldire” itself is one of the strongest songs on the album, with a powerful, captivating beat that forces your body to move to the music like a demon helplessly following Lucifer’s lurid commands. The duality established by Bryan’s lyrics are intoxicating, and you can’t help but sing along, face distorted, eyes narrowed as you lament about casting spells and cutting your own flesh, frightening the patrons of the coffee shop who happen to be sitting next to you when “Maldire” starts playing in your headphones.
There are two instrumental songs, “Septic Rinse” and “HyperCurse.” Bryan has a knack of juxtaposing buoyant trance tracks with thick layers of despondency that drip with obsidian. Beauty eviscerated and sealed in black glass before being thrown to the ground, shattering into a million pieces that slice your bare feet.
“Dream Curse” consists of the album’s only spoken-word track. Like being flung into an ethereal nightmare from which you can’t awake, narrated with images of melting faces, chattering bones and blood raining from the sky, threatening to drown you in ambivalence toward this world we inhabit.
Maldire is paradigm for electronic albums today, spiking high above the white noise of industrial music that has inundated the scene to the point that discovering anything unique or innovative is a chore, and a scarcity.
It’s the kind of album that, like the first time I listened to Church of Acid in that Utah music store, grabs you by the throat and tears out your vocal chords just to get your attention, then soothes you with evil melodies as you slowly bleed to death on the floor, unable to think of a better way to slip into oblivion.