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Album Review: Heresiarch – Death Ordinance

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of very many full-fledged death metal concept albums. Prog metal? Sure. tech-death? All the time. Same with thrash and even black metal. But New Zealanders Heresiarch go the concept route on their freshman full-length Death Ordinance. According to the PR release:

“Death Ordinance is set in a future ravaged by 30 years of war, global societies have collapsed into anarchic warfare between tribal bands. Following nuclear warfare and EMP’s [sic], remnants of technology are repurposed solely for conflict. Regression becomes progress as oppression and power struggle with natural law and imminent extinction.

What remains of humanity struggles in the vestiges, the final lineage impotent and malformed, for the scraps of a dying world.”

It’s a refreshingly straightforward narrative as far as such things go, and it complements the band’s no-nonsense approach to death metal. If you’re someone who listens to a lot of what Dark Descent releases, you basically know what to expect here: crushing, downtuned riffs, impossibly subterranean vocals, and that distinctly cavernous sort of atmosphere that people either love or hate. Overall, their sound is remarkably similar to how the tank pictured on the album’s cover probably sounds while tearing across a battlefield, and it hits just as hard.

One thing, however, does set the album apart from the typical DD release – drummer N.O. has a bit more fluid a style than most death metal drummers, which creates some thrilling tension within the music when he deviates from the sort of drum pattern one would expect behind certain riffs. The most obvious example is the beginning of “Iron Harvest” where he plays what feels like a quarter-time tom-heavy beat behind a tremolo-picked riff that almost obstructs the song’s flow, but still somehow works. Then when he finally switches to blasts, it’s like a dam bursts. Something similar happens on closer “Desert of Ash,” a disorienting morass of a song with a lurching drum pattern that occasionally had me wishing that I had a Dramamine. Again, it’s somehow incredibly effective in spite of its vertigo-inducing nature.

All told, Heresiarch have produced a record that both feels familiar and isn’t afraid to take risks, which is a difficult balance to maintain. Whether you prefer your death metal old-school or boundary-pushing, you’re likely to find plenty to like here.

Death Ordinance will be available on July 7 via Dark Descent.

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