It’s funny that something like religion, which at its very basics should bring people together, give them a positive force to follow in order to be decent, and offer some structure to one’s life pretty much does the opposite so often. Name another thing that drives people at each other’s throats and causes them to express hatred more than one’s supposed faith.
This isn’t something that has popped up overnight either. For centuries, people have used their god’s name to invade countries, oppress and torture people, cast out those with whom they disagree, and basically act every bit unlike what their faith requests that they do. The number of people who have been murdered in the name of one religion or the other has to be astronomical, and that just flies in the face of logic, does it not? Or is it an excuse for people to be evil? Does it give them something to hide behind in order to justify their hatred, their poor behavior, and their prejudices since their actions are supposedly preordained by a god? This is one of the reasons I chortle every time I hear some gasbag claim that war is being fought against religion. Don’t you figure at some point the people you hammer down are going to fight back?
It sounds like there is some serious pent-up anger on “All Hell’s Martyrs,” the debut full-length record from Dread Sovereign, the Dublin-based trio that revels in old-style doom metal, some death metal, and even a touch of black metal. We’re talking blackness that dates back to the Crusades, and much of the material here sounds like it emanates from poor souls who perhaps were victims of the Christian violence and oppression and the very natural tendency to lash back at what’s transpired. The words drip like venom from the mouth of Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill like he’s immersed himself in the bad that religion has brought to Europe and his home country over the centuries, and he’s hellbent on firing back.
So we’ve mentioned Averill (he also plays bass on the record), who any metal fan worth his or her weight should know from bands such as Primordial, Blood Revolt, and Twilight of the Gods. This is subject matter he has visited before with Primordial especially, but never has he delivered his words with such darkness, venom, and revenge. His delivery is so convincing and passionate, you can’t help but stand beneath his bleeding heart while he rails against every force that created evil with something that is supposed to be a good force. Joining him are guitarist Bones, who also plays with Wizards of Firetop Mountain, and drummer Simon “Sol Dubh” O’Laoghaire, who plays with Primordial as well as Geasa.
Eerie intro piece “Drink the Wine” opens the record on an ominous note, with noise and the sound of a warped preacher, and that leads into “Thirteen Clergy,” that trickles with doom and terror. “The devil is coming,” Averill warns with monstrous glee, as the song leads into its powerful chorus, where the singing really hits its stride. The rest of the song refers to King Robert II of France, blood being shed on the clergy robes, and promises that, “they will burn at the stake.” This is an incredibly strong song immersed in history and real, bloody events. “Cthulhu Opiate Haze” follows and is as bizarre and fever-dream odd as one might expect from the subject matter, as the song begins to boil and Averil howls about “a nameless horror.” The track builds in heaviness and destruction, the music leaves a chill over your body, and a dark, haunting melody bleeds while Averill warns, “Cthulhu haunts us, he was always with us.” Interlude “The Devil’s Venom” continues the sense of spookiness and carries that over to “Pray to the Devil in Man” that is built with chant-like vocals and even more strangeness. Eventually the song evens out, with Averill sounding much like he does in Primordial as he wails away, and the rest of the band just soars, going back and forth from classic metal glory to death-doom punishment that carries to song to its tumultuous ending.
“Scourging Iron” kicks off with liturgical-sounding chants and trickling guitars before it lights fully ablaze, with guitars rising up and taking control. The song then hits a decimating chug, with noise and squall rising up and choking you out. “The Great Beast” is an interlude that is haunting and filled with strange voices, and it bleeds into “We Wield the Spear of Longinus,” a reference to the soldier who pierced Christ’s side while he hung on the cross. So you learn a lot just from that title, don’t you? This 11:35 track is packed with doom melodies, slow-moving tension, and strange vocals, as if Averill is channeling something weirdly spiritual. Bluesy soloing eventually slides in, giving the song a smoky tone, and the it reaches its climax with Averill howling, “Hail Satan!” seemingly more as a cry of rebellion than an actual show of devotion. “Cathars to Their Doom” runs nearly nine minutes and is unforgivingly heavy and swollen, with Averill warning, “You god will not answer,” as the track boils, chugs, and reaches a dramatic, epic conclusion that would have been a perfect album capper. But there’s one more epic in store, that being “All Hell’s Martyrs, Transmissions From the Devil Star” that runs 13:19 and begins with a Black Sabbath-style pace. Averill takes on the role of evil storyteller, warning, “We shall flay and crucify,” as the band hits a mucky pace that eventually goes mystical and atmospheric. There is a trippy bit of playing that opens a long instrumental section that drives the song toward its finish, and the final moments launch into the cosmos, bathing the end in black stardust.
This record won’t convince or find welcome with the rising tide of people who are using their alleged faith to continue to wage wars and hurt people today. But for those of us who have watched on objectively and have been disgusted by some people’s action towards others, this is an eye-opening experience and a very sobering one. But beyond the lyrical content, Dread Sovereign’s debut is a damn powerful collection that gains steam as it goes on, and there is no way you can question the passion and power behind these songs. This is an awesome force that should find a hungry audience with any number of metal fans, a dose of pure darkness that’ll burn your blood, scorch your soul, but also get your hairs raised on your arms. Hopefully there’s way more coming from this band, because who knows how violent their next record could be?
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/DreadSovereign
To buy the album, go here: http://www.van-records.de/content/en/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.van-records.de/