Denouncement Pyre - Black Sun UnboundFor an American who’s never visited, Australia seems like the coolest place on Earth. I get emissions testing done on my Toyota and listen to an old Army veteran reminisce about the beachy weather and beautiful women he met during his R&R travel there. I talk to a co-worker and hear stories about young women writing their phone numbers on tennis balls and tossing them onto the deck of his ship as it pulled into Sydney. I shotgun a Fosters while riding a kangaroo, wearing Globes, and blasting Deströyer 666 loud enough to crush my balls. I may have made one of those up. Point is, I love Australian metal, and Denouncement Pyre is no exception. Formed in 2003, this Melbourne blackened-death quartet impressed me with ferocious 2010 debut World Cremation, only to somehow top it with 2013’s Almighty Arcanum. Described by former AMG writer Noctus as ‘if Watain was good,’ Arcanum featured catchy and original riffs, grand compositions, fluid songwriting, and great production, leaving me giddy with anticipation for third full-length Black Sun Unbound. But does it stack up?

As the swirling riffs of instrumental opener “Abnegate” and first proper track “Deathless Dreaming” indicate, Unbound is quite different from its predecessor. Dense, ambitious, and stuffed with energetic fretwork, this album could peel the infamous ‘246 riffs!’ sticker off of Dark Angel’s Time Does Not Heal and slap it on its own cover without fear of false advertising. Over 49 minutes, guitarist/vocalist ‘D.’ unleashes a buckshot heap of sharp blackened death chords, majestic tremolos, and diminished clean picking. While Arcanum worked by marvelously building off one or two main riffs per song, Unbound smashes and stitches its ideas together with maniacal abandon. When this works, it’s terrific. Album highlight “Revere the Pyre,” for instance, is a glorious, stomping triumph that climaxes with battering Gospel of the Horns guitars, scorching leads, and an awesome boom-doosh drum strike/chord bash section in its second half. Likewise, “Scars Adorn the Whore in Red” weaves a clawing Watain-style progression, shrill notes, and eerie closing melody into a surprisingly digestible package.

Denouncement Pyre - 2016

Sadly, other songs attempt to cram together too many ideas, resulting in occasional jerky songwriting and irritating tempo shifts. Despite featuring the most badass song titles, ”World Encircler” and “Wounds of Golgotha” are hindered by their awkward tendency to stagger the rhythm to a halt every time the riffs change, preventing the tracks from ever locking into an enjoyable groove or achieving a consistent mood. There are no ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ songs on Unbound – nearly each of these 10 tracks regularly alters tempos – but towards the back-half there’s an unfortunate tendency for the songs to never exceed mid-paced at the quickest. Mind you, I don’t need my blackened death to constantly deliver a stream of Christcrushing hellfire blastbeats, but for every cool moment like the wonky My Dying Bride melody in the middle of the title track, there’s a tired waltzing riff that sounds too much like those that passed for the climaxes on the last Ketzer album. As varied as the guitar-work can be, at times I want to shout “Just two minutes of furious blasting over a half-decent black metal riff, please!”

australian_flagFortunately, Unbound sounds great, with a dry, clear, and forceful production that accentuates the biting guitars and intelligible rasps, while keenly layering the crunchy riffs and anticosmic tremolos. Songs like aforementioned “Dreaming” augment their freneticism with some interesting muffled-vocal effects, while the mix makes moments like the massive finishing riff and roared final lyrics of closer “Sophrosune” feel even more colossal (“I am the Wanderer/I am the Night/I am Forever/I am Death!”).

So while I can’t disguise my slight disappointment with Unbound, in the end it’s a quality, inspired package with a few hiccups. Sure, there’s some bloated songs and a few moments of shrug-worthy guitar-work, but the drumming is keen and active, and it’s clear Pyre are not afraid to try new things. As the Satanist-style riff of penultimate instrumental “Transform the Aether” and the malevolent chugging crawl of “Witness” can attest, there’s ample diversity here, and that – together with the record’s immense scope – ultimately leads to a win. Recommended for those who like Cooper’s Pale Ale, Nocturnal Graves, Koala bears, tossing another shrimp on the barbie, and anyone tired of reading half-baked Australian cliches from someone who’s never left the Northern hemisphere.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hells Headbangers
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2016

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  • I uh… I’m not sure if I should ask where’s the unicorn…

  • Stefunal

    Beachy weather and beautiful women, huh? Funny, I’d always thought Australia was all about various critters and insects wanting to kill you in the most tormenting ways possible.

    • Westpaceagle

      those beautiful women will torment you plenty as well…navy man here to say, yes, best place on earth (or right up there)

      • Stefunal

        Probably not as beautiful as in Russia, though. I think I’ll stick to the motherland, better an oppressing governement than murdering spiders :D

    • Grymm

      They have spiders the size of your head there.

      Spiders. The size. OF YOUR HEAD. Trigger warning: big-ass spider eating a large bird in Christ-like pose below.

      • No trigger warnings!!

        • Grymm

          I’m surprised absolutely no one has used that picture as an album cover yet. Or at least as a shirt.

  • Luke_22

    It is indeed the coolest place on earth. Not that I’ve been to any other place on earth. But looking forward to this, nice review.

  • Tom Hardy

    Their best album thus far but it’s still a bit lackluster. I can’t put my finger on it but their music gets old too fast for me and maybe this album is different than their past discography? I’ll put it on my board as a reminder to check it out. Thanks, Mark.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Yeah nah yeah maaaaaate, I’ll be straight up this like a rat up a fucken drain pipe.
    That drummer is as busy as a one armed taxi driver with crabs and bangs like a dunny door in a gale.
    Anyway I’m as dry as a dead dingos donger so I’m gonna smash a few tinnies and listen to this till my heads like a dropped pie.

    • Blueberry Balls

      “busy as a one armed taxi driver with crabs”
      “dry as a dead dingos donger”
      you are a talented chap!

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I can’t take credit, they’re classic old Aussie expressions

        • Blueberry Balls

          chunder is the best word ever next to the word leotard. say it. “leotard”

          such an amazing word.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      dinkum truth mate, good as old goon

  • SegaGenitals

    I read “biting guitars” as “bitching guitars”, and was momentarily intrigued.

    • Grymm

      Guitars need to bitch more.

  • Roquentin

    Loving this blackened death metal from down under that gets released on Hells Headbangers. Thanks, mate!

  • Will

    I first heard of these guys when I saw them with a hangover at like 12:40p in the afternoon on the Sunday at Maryland Deathfest and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve loved all the previous albums and am looking forward to listening to this album.