Malefice @ The Forum (Kent, England), 10 Mar 2010

UK bruisers Malefice bring the noise to the Home Counties.

Many people reading this won't have heard of Tunbridge Wells. Thirty-odd miles south of London, It's official title is Royal Tunbridge Wells, a crowning jewel in the county of Kent (also known as the Garden of England). You couldn't get more quintessentially British if you had tea and cucumber sandwiches at the cricket with the Queen.

It's therefore only right that the town be torn a new arsehole by some British talent in the shape of Malefice.

Since first album Entities, Malefice have become a serious name not only in the UK but on a much broader metal stage and following on from 2009's blistering Dawn Of Reprisal, their popularity has continued to soar. 2008 saw them destroying the stage at the UK's Download Festival, 2009 got them on tour with Devildriver, Behemoth, Suicide Silence and Trigger the Bloodshed and 2010 sees them with a high slot at the Hammerfest II festival.

I caught up with frontman Dale Butler as opening band Gokkun took the stage. Butler and the rest of the band (Guitarists Ben Symons and Alex Vuskans, Tom Hynes on bass and drummer Craig Thomas) took it in turns to man the merchandise stand and after a few photos with fans, the heavily tattooed, impressively bearded frontman and I got a chance to chew the fat. I asked Butler how it felt playing rooms like The Forum (maximum capacity 250 but it never gets close) after smashing the shit out of ten times that on the Devildriver tour:

'Smaller is where you get better,' he says. 'You've got to develop. When there's 5,000 kids there, you don't have to do as much but at this type of gig, you've got to work hard to get the fans.'

On the subject of fans, how does Butler feel Malefice fit in to the old school/new school metal categories? Recent tour buddies Trigger The Bloodshed have a hard time with critics due to their somewhat contentious "death metal" labelling.

'Nowadays when people say "death metal" they're talking about Trigger and Job For A Cowboy but to me that's not death metal. I mean, I love those guys but death metal is the stuff I grew up on - Nile, Deicide and Cannibal Corpse. Still, we seem to have a decent spread of young and old fans though.'

This is clearly true, as a chap resembling a geography teacher and his nervous looking wife make their way to the bar.

One criticism of the recent tour was the sound issues that all the bands faced. An unimpressed look comes over Butler's face when I mention it.

'We had to get some cunt fired in Birmingham,' he tells me. 'He totally screwed us over. I couldn't hear anything other than drums, the sound was shit.'

As a fine upstanding member of the metal community though, he dealt with this in the only way he saw fit:

'I put my foot through a fucking monitor.'

Best the sound man keeps his eye on the ball tonight then! This act of rock and roll violence is symptomatic of Malefice's physical nature on stage though;

'[Dawn Of Reprisal] is a much more animated album. We go on tour, work out, lose shitloads of weight, then go home, play xBox and put it all on again!'

Which isn't to say they don't hit it hard when they're on the road but these guys appreciate they have a responsibility.

'At the end of the day, this is our business. Kids are paying money to see us play so we can't just keep getting fucked up. Sometimes you have to have a day of to detox, sleep, and drink a cup of tea.'

With this is mind, plus the still relatively light crowd, what could we expect from Malefice tonight?

'If the crowd don't come in to us, we're going out to them.'

We shake hands as local talent Avarice Rising finish up a blinding set, followed by more unsigned mayhem by Reasonable Doubt. Then it's time for the main event.

As Malefice take the stage, the group of enourmously pissed girls in the pit set about a series of unstable windmills and bizarre Beyonce-esque pelvic gyrations as Abandon Hope from Dawn Of Reprisal smashes through the PA (no violence necessary, all the levels are fine). Disappointingly the crowd has thinned out, leaving no more than thiry bodies there to enjoy the mayhem.

As Risen From The Ashes gets a decent flurry from the crowd, Butler continually douses himself in water for ergonomically correct headbanging. He's joined by Symons, Vuskans and Haynes, and before you know it the whole room is headbanging in perfect unison. There is no reprieve for the small but enthused group of onlooking metal fans.

Malefice's inspired cover of Pantera's I'm Broken is a fantastically wise addition to the setlist, as it causes a singalong that a crowd of hundreds would be proud of. But as the pit subsides, axemen Symons and Vuskans decide to take the floor, before Butler, as promised, leaps off stage and growls his way over to the bar, ensuring everyone in his way gets a full face of spitting metal.

Once the epic End Of Days comes to a close, the band begin to wrap up what is really a warm up for their Hammerfest II performance on March 13th - 14th; that's when the real mayhem can ensue.

Butler doesn't hold back vocally, drummer Thomas is on exceptional form; it's a fantastically polished performance. It's a disappointment from a fan's perspective to see such a poor turn-out to such a great band but the fact that they took the stage with such aggression and appreciation for those in front of them defines Malefice as true metal warriors.

Dawn Of Reprisal is out now on Metal Blade/Riot.