There are few genres in music that better simulate the chaos, malice, and militancy of war than metal. In particular, death and black metal have a peculiar knack for unleashing torrents of sound that bring these elements to terrifying life. In general, these two subgenres (which most of you must now be aware that I am quite fond of) bring to the listener a heightened level of audio decimation. Mixtures of blast beats and monstrous fills vie for supremacy against a cacophony of incendiary guitar work that either blazes or plods through songs about death, existential malaise, spatial emptiness, and violence so guttural and fierce that one wonders as to the sanity of the vocalists. Bands such as Bathory, Bolt Thrower and, more recently, Succumb, have used this sonic template to push death and black metal sounds that generate such ferocity that it takes some listeners years to become accustomed to the onslaught. While these subgenres congeal and coalesce fairly frequently in the metal world, a particular mixture of their core sounds has given birth to an even more niche subgenre commonly known as war metal. Bands like Teitanblood, Blasphemy, and Archgoat have been perfecting this style for years, and with their ferocious debut Death Ordinance, we can now add New Zealand’s own Heresiarch to their ranks.
Trying to explain the sound espoused by Heresiarch on this most brazenly intense of debuts is about as simple as describing the violent and scintillating cover art. This is a sonic landscape of teethed tanks, coils of bloodied razor wire, and soldiers filleting one another with sharpened bayonets. Funnel “The War to End All Wars” through the prism of the apocalypse and you’ll get a general feel as to what this album is going for on a sonic level. This is brutal stuff that hits all of the buttons that make old school death metal and black metal two of the cornerstones of the metal world, and it ultimately offers nothing short of total sonic obliteration. This may sound like an overly simplistic formula, but stick with this record and you will find yourself immersed in quality death and black metal songwriting that will delight listeners of both subgenres. Because, in the end, why do we come to bands in these subgenres in the first place if not to get wrecked? So strap in. Things are about to get heavy.
The album kicks off with “Consecrating Fire”, a darkly atmospheric dirge that establishes both the heaviness of the record in performance and production, as well as the more militant vibe of the drum work interspersed throughout the record. The track burns and smelts in a heaving, roiling fire that introduces Heresiarch’s ultra-heavy aesthetic which will be held to tightly throughout the album’s nine tracks. Following this introductory slow burn, second track and first album single “Storming Upon Knaves” is an absolute banger. Gone is the more conservative pacing, replaced instead by a torrent of death metal riffs that are intended to rain down destructive metal goodness (and a severe case of Tinnitus) on the listener. This is premium, vile blackened death that stands out as one of the most aggressive tracks on the record. Which is saying something, because this album in general rips.
Now, so far it’s apparent that Heresiarch has come to obliterate faces. But is there much variation from this formula? As tracks “Harbinger”, “Ruination”, and “The Yoke” blaze by in fits of rage-filled madness, it becomes readily apparent that the answer to this question is a fairly deafinitive no. While pacing and tempo see their fair share of variance, this is a straightforward punch to the gonads and doesn’t attempt to be anything more. Metal fans looking for a dense compositions or technical wankery are going to leave this record sorely disappointed. Ultimately, what Heresiarch present with Death Ordinance is a make-or-break salvo of unrelenting heaviness that could be a net negative for some metalheads, and will obviously draw some significant lines of division as to its reception. But ultimately Heresiarch know what they want to accomplish with this record and do so with a level of aggression and technical competency that is both admirable and enjoyable. If you like Dark Descent Records and the bands they house, you will enjoy the crap out of this thing.
The album’s final four tracks include some extended cuts that break up the short and brutal motif the band established during the record’s first half. “Iron Harvest” ramps up the atmosphere and OSDM riffs with a more deliberate delivery, before bursting into full-throttle mayhem reminiscent of the album’s earlier tracks. “Lupine Epoch” follows this epic track as a short and sweet face-melter, only to revert back to an almost doom-like finale in “Desert of Ash”, sealing the listener in a slow tempo coffin of grimy, oppressively heavy riffs as the album draws to an ominous and atmospheric close, leaving all in its wake beaten and bloodied by the experience.
You like noodling? Lots of intricate guitar passages with a saxophone solos thrown in for good measure? This is not the band for you, nor is this the album for you. Heresiarch are not in any way attempting to wow you with technical prowess, but instead punish you through a sonic recreation of the violence and destruction inherent within this world we occupy. It is heavy. It is relentless. It is remorseless. It does what it sets out to do, and accomplishes its mission of annihilation impeccably. Prepare to be black and blue by the end of this thing. Another great entry into the Dark Descent canon, and a stalwart release from a young band with a lot of potential.
Death Ordinance is available 07/07/17 via Dark Descent Records and is available for pre-order here.