New Zealand black/death metal horde Heresiarch released what could have been my favourite EP in 2011, Hammer of Intransigence. The fusion of the bestial fury of Ross Bay Cult heroes Blapshemy and the war metal of Conqueror made for an aggressive and effective war metal masterpiece.
Their 2014 release, Wælwulf marked a slight shift musically, with the band moving towards a doomier, gloomier sound instead. Yet, the intensity in their music remain uncompromised. 3 years on, the band finally drops their debut full length album, Death Ordinance, leaving fans wondering if the band would carry on in the veins of Wælwulf, or revert to the chaos of Hammer of Intransigence.
However, rather than conforming to either of the styles that they created on their past release, Heresiarch on their debut full length has instead chosen to fuse the speed and aggression of Hammer of Intransigence, and the crushing heaviness of Wælwulf.
Opening track Consecrating Fire picks off where Wælwulf left off, and instills a sense of dread in the listener for the oncoming onslaught. Heresiarch quickly switches gears on Storming Upon Knaves, and from here on out the listener is buried under wave after wave of relentless riffing. While the riffs here may get slightly repetitive from time to time (as do most material of the war metal genre), the execution is flawless with Heresiarch‘s intention to crush being clear from the get go.
Everything that made Hammer of Intransigence such a impactful release, and the hallmarks of the war metal genre, from the chaotic, Conqueror-inspired lead guitars, to the tireless battery, are presented in the listener’s face without mercy. Longer tracks like Iron Harvest and Desert of Ash sees the band incorporating the slower moments that have been introduced on Wælwulf. In particular, Desert of Ash stood out, being probably the most melodic track in the band’s discography, with the bleak melodies conjuring the horrors of war.
As per albums of such genres, I found listening to Death Ordinance on speakers and full-sized headphones to provide the best experience. With full-sized cans like the Audeze LCD-2, Death Ordinance is an oppressive listen, often suffocating the listener under the barrage of crushing riffs. On speakers, the album feels much airier, and the wall of sound effect becomes much more prominent, though slightly less aggressive.
Death Ordinance marks the growth of Heresiarch as musicians and songwriters, and with each release the band ensures that they leave their mark on fans and listeners. Coming from someone who hardly listens to this particular brand of black/death metal these days (aside from the occasional Archgoat), Death Ordinance is one war metal release to look out for.
Calyx 24/192 > Shanling PH300 > Audeze LCD-2/Audioengine A5+
Standout tracks: Storming Upon Knaves, Desert of Ash