Sheffield’s Malevolence is definitely a name you need to be across if you have any interest in the way heavy metal will thrive in the coming years… they’ve just released the best album of their career in shape of the the excellent Malicious Intent, so of course when the chance to have a chat with the band’s guitarist Josh Baines came up we grabbed it with both of our ironclad paws…

The album’s out this week – and it’s your first for the Nuclear Blast label. How has that partnership been working out for you? They are arguably the biggest metal record label in the world – has it been a bit of a shock compared to the way you’ve worked before? “Yes. To be honest it’s been quite the journey. Generally we’ve tried to go with smaller labels or by self-releasing; for this one we’re splitting with our label and Nuclear Blast. The amount of power they have, and the team behind us, has been incredible. The way that they have pushed our little band has been amazing, and we appreciate every little bit of it. It’s crazy just to be put on such a massive platform, and it’s helped us to see the potential of the album we’ve made. Obviously we like it, a lot – we think it’s our best album so far… we’ll you’d hope so (laughs) but at the same time it’s like there’s only so far as we could push it as a band; Nuclear Blast have sent it into the stratosphere! They’ve really spent a lot of time on the album. Obviously they have huge bands and massive releases, so to be a part of something that’s such a worldwide dominating force… it’s cool. Because they have so many massive bands – they release a constant stream of new music – it’s cool that they’ve put so much effort into our band. We were sceptical that we might become sidelined because we’re not as big as some of their other bands but that’s not been the case at all. They’ve been a massive, massive help”.

I think from our point of view it’s a quality thing. Our for review list currently has over three hundred albums on it – it certainly helps that being on a label like NB enables you as a young band to cut through that noise, that competition, knowing that someone like me is probably going to check out the bands on that label first, because we know if it’s on Nuclear Blast it’s probably pretty good. “One hundred percent. That’s the sort of thing you can’t do by yourself. You have to have that input from someone like Nuclear Blast. You put everything you can into an album, and for someone like them to actually say ‘no, this is really good and we want it to do as well as possible… it’s a nice feeling, you know!” (more laughter).

Talking of nice feelings, you’ve just come off of a tour (with Architects) where you said the show you played in London was the biggest you’ve played yet – how does that feel. “Well, we’ve played a lot of festivals, but the tents we usually play in festivals usually hold about five thousand people, but Alexandra Palace in London is ten thousand people in one room! All standing… it’s a pretty impressive thing to look out on! The tour was ridiculous for us; we weren’t really sure what to expect as we were the heaviest band on the bill, opening… for things like that, because the shows are so big it takes people ages to get in the venues, the queues are massive… so we thought maybe the rooms would be half full when we played. Which is cool because that would still be bigger than anything else we’ve played or that we would do on a headline tour. But every night the rooms were packed, massive pits, we couldn’t have asked for anything better, you know? It was eye opening, but such a good experience for the band. And it just fuelled the fire ! We were like, ‘yes, we’ll definitely do that again’! Alexandra Palace is an iconic venue, so it was cool to be able to play there and have a successful show”.

How does that affect you as a player? Like you say, if you headline you’re still playing places where you can make eye contact with the front row. Does playing a big room change the way you approach your own gig? “It’s quite different, yes. I like playing the small places just as much as the big ones; I think in general when you look out over a sea of people, it’s quite mind bending to see how many people are there! Thousands of people are all watching five other people up on the stage, and it’s kind of a strange thing. When you’re playing there are a lot more eyes on you obviously but I don’t know… we’ve played a lot of gigs! I joined the band when I was fourteen and I’m twenty seven now. We’ve had a lot of practice! Generally we’ve always tried to put as much effort into any show as possible that we’ve ever done. So I don’t think it makes us play any different realistically but maybe the crowd interaction is different. When you’re at a venue like Alexandra Palace especially, Alex (Taylor, vocals) is orchestrating a sea of people! It’s crazy and when they react to what you ask them to do… it’s a very empowering feeling! The same thing does happen in a tiny place but it’s much more intense three hundred people, sweaty, going mental! it’s hectic! but it gives off a different vibe. It’s good that the band translates in both those scenarios I think”.

Let’s go back to the album now. Obviously there would have been some sort of pandemic-based disruption with the recording. Would you normally record together all in the same room? Or are you used to doing things separately or remotely – how did you put Malicious Intent together? “We got back from our Australian tour just as the pandemic hit. A week after that everything was in lockdown. I built myself a little set up at home and just started playing riffs. I didn’t have anything else to do other than play guitar! I recorded as much stuff as I could, getting ideas down and using the stuff that was happening in the World as inspiration. So I just continuously developed stuff, going back and forth with ideas, sending them to the boys on the group chat that we’ve got and the dropbox links… ‘have a listen to these’! When they started easing the lockdowns, and you could have three or four people meeting, we started to renovate a warehouse space, which where I am now. I’m speaking to you from the practice room at the minute, upstairs there’s a studio and a kitchen area, and all of the merch is stored here too. We basically created a hub where we could come down and be creative together. Every element of the band can be done from here, people can come down whenever they want, jam, try out new ideas. So when it came to recording stuff , or at least demoing stuff, we did it here. We built a vocal booth that’s linked to the computer in the studio upstairs; it made it really easy as a band to get ideas together which we’d never had the time to do before. And I hope that’s reflected in the quality of the album”.

It does. It sounds great. As an outsider to the band, although I’d heard some of your material before, what strikes me is coherent this record sounds. It’s very well sequenced. A lot of bands these day don’t put a lot of thought into how an album runs because of the idea that people just cherry pick tracks from streaming services. The way this album flows, you really want to listen to it all the way through. “Well, thanks. That’s a big thing for me personally because I’m not really one for playlists. I’ll always just put an album on and listen to it all the way through. Even if I’m in the car listening to my phone. I don’t know. I get into stuff. One song’s not enough for me! For weeks I’ll listen to the same record over and over again and then maybe move on to something else. I think you’re right, everything is about singles and quick turnover these days. But there’s a beauty in ‘a record’, and you’re definitely right that lots of people don’t think of how it flows. I wanted our record to flow, I wanted that to be a thing. Just for myself really because I know that’s not how people listen to music for the most part these days. So I’m glad that you picked up on it – it must have worked!”

It certainly did! What’s your favourite track on the record? “My favourite tracks are Above All Else or Higher Place I think. Aside from the singles. The singles are a bit different for me because I wrote On Broken Glass and Life Sentence two years ago, and I’ve heard them so many times it’s kind of gone past the point of ‘liking’ them as much as I did, whereas some of the others are a bit fresher, they’ve not been released, people aren’t posting them all the time. I think those tracks are going to be definite contenders as fan favourites. It was hard for us to pick the singles because I think every track has it’s own sort of meaning, it’s own groove. So it was tough to decide but that’s a good problem to have and I think we picked well. Although it basically came down to other people’s opinions!: ‘well, this one comes up a lot, and this one, so we’ll probably go with those ones!’. Because we like ’em all! But Higher Place is special for me. I wrote the music for my Grandad when he died, so it was originally all instrumental, orchestral-sounding, but we decided to make it into a song for the album because all the boys in the band liked the music that I’d written. So it just holds a place in my heart, if you know what I mean”.

The guitar solo on that track is fantastic! “Thank you very much! It was a strange one. I remember when I demoed it it only took one take. I just played it out and it was weird, almost as if it was meant to be. So I just kept it, as it was from that first time. And even Jim Pinder, who produced the record, said he thought it might be the best guitar solo he’d ever recorded when I recorded it properly. That was pretty amazing. But thank you too, I appreciate that”.

In his review of the album, our man Mick Stronge said – and I agree with him totally –  that it is ‘the sort of guitar solo MTV would have elevated to Godhead status in 1993’. “Yes!” (more laughter).

It really has the emotional punch of that sort of big metal Metallica were doing at their height. “Thanks man, that’s a massive compliment for me especially. It was an emotional song for me, so it was nice for me that that’s reciprocated and people can feel the emotion I was trying to put across”.

You’ve just finished one tour – I’m assuming you’ll be doing festivals for the Summer or will you be heading out on your own? “We’ve got tons of festivals throughout Europe, then we head to America in June or July then more festivals after that! Then we head out with Trivium in the UK and Europe early next year, and we’re trying to come back out to Australia as soon as possible. We just want to do as many shows as possible to get the name out there!”

And we are happy to be a small part of that process – thanks for the chat!

Malevolence’s Malicious Intent is out now – read Michael Stronge’s review of the album HERE