At some point in the two years after the release of The Sound of Diesel in 1996, things began to change for Bridgeport's Malicious Intent. It is apparent on the band's first CD release - 1998's Death Pop.
Produced by long-time collaborator Scott Robinson of Charleston's Cave Records, Death Pop takes a leap in sound quality from previous on-tape recordings. Featuring re-recordings of 5/6 of The Sound of Diesel, the improved production quality takes away from the appeal of the original versions. "Pitchfork Eye," the Death Pop's first track following the infamous "Homosexuality" sample, just sound too clean - lacking the organic crunch and crash of the original version. Part of that may have to do with the unavoidable maturing of J.D. Smallridge's vocals. Where on Diesel, his voice is a deep growl from the stomach, on Death Pop, it comes more from the throat. While it's still J.D.'s signature voice, it lacks the power it once had. Musically, the still-de-tuned guitar tones are just as heavy as on Diesel, but feel a bit more fuzzy. Brian Pauley, who drums on this album, plays with more of a snare-and-high hat style from his days in Dirt Bear and Shindig that very much departs from John Stutler's double-bass-heavy death metal sound. And as Stutler's drumming always provided the backbone for the direction of MI's music, so does Pauley's giving the band a more fresh, contemporary attitude.
Where Death Pop comes up short is not in the production or performance of old songs, but the writing of its new ones. In the review of The Sound of Diesel I referred to the ill-conceived comparisons to the likes of Korn due to the tuned-down gravy-like guitar riffs. On Death Pop, MI show they had likely been listening to records produced by Ross Robinson - elements of their music drawing comparison to Sepultura or Deftones. There is no more obvious example of this than on "Don't Worry," which starts out with a grooving bass line and cymbal tap, and then in comes the rap-sung vocals. Even the mosh-friendly chorus with the anthemic lyrics "I got your back, boy!" can't salvage this song when it's taken out of the context of when it was written. On "Clone A," it's more of the same. Long bass lead in, rap-like vocals, and a cheesy simulated record-scratching on the guitar, which is unforgivable. The album hits rock bottom when the band goes completely rap-metal in its cover of the New Kids on the Block's "Hanging Tough" with more string-scratching and a half-hearted "Woah oh oh" chorus. I know it is ironic. I know that it was funny - hence the chorus laughing at the end of the track. I know it probably didn't seem like such a bad in 1998, but it's there and it's not good. (And I think I remember giving the band the idea to cover the song while we were at a Dairy Queen in Flatwoods. Why did they listen to me? I was 16. Sigh.)
Good news is, those three tracks are the worst and only difficult-t0-bear moments. The bad news is none of the new tracks live up the old tracks that they are pitted side-by-side against. With the exception of "Martyr," which the exception of the song's unnecessary beginning riffs and whispered chanting, is a decent track of bludgeoning riffs and drums and time changes that resemble the band's earlier recorded work. In the end, the the subtle sense of humor that made this otherwise merciless metal band more than simply that, cost them in the end. The cover of the album pictures a cheerful group of sailors in a congo line. The actual disc looks of of a disco ball. The disc tray showed a billboard for a trucker's strip club. The album being (appropriately) titled Death Pop. These were all successful attempts at being clever and ironic, but unfortunately it only showed that the band's members just weren't taking it seriously anymore. This eventually lead to the demise of one of West Virginia most interesting heavy bands.
Eventually, threats of law suit over the name Malicious Intent from a guy named Roland lead to the group being re-named All For Nothing, which just never quite felt the same. Around the same time, friend and former Down To None frontman Dana White joined All For Nothing as a second singer. Soon after, the band's seemingly home venue the Common Grounds in Charleston closed. AFN played one of the venue's final shows to a packed room of more than 300 people with plenty of sing-a-longs, stage dives and squirt guns. After the Common Grounds closed, it took Charleston a couple years before an all-ages scene re-emerged. Malicious Intent/All For Nothing never played an official last show, but instead just faded away, but its mark had been left on the state's music scene. They were a band that not only I but hundreds of people who were going to shows at the time will never forget.
Artist: Malicious Intent
Album: Death Pop
For Fans Of: Hatebreed, Sepultura, Vision of Disorder
DOWNLOAD: Malicious Intent - Death Pop