Heresiarch - Death Ordinance“War… war never changes.”

Those iconic words of Fallout’s intro might as well have been talking about war metal. While I love the scorched-earth pummeling of bands like Revenge and Bestial Warlust, I’ll be the first to admit the genre isn’t exactly known for its variety and memorability. To me the style needs some musicality to balance out the brutality, otherwise, I’d just be blasting Tetragrammacide all day and sending my entire paycheck to Hells Headbangers. Fortunately, this was something New Zealand quartet Heresiarch understood pretty well. Specifically on 2014’s Wælwulf EP, which expanded on 2011’s Hammer of Intransigence EP by offering plenty of tempo shifts and distinct riffs while serving up shovelfuls of sonic brutality. Nine years since their formation, will debut full-length Death Ordinance continue this riotous crusade or fall face first into a pool of noisy muck? Hop on the turret and affix your bayonets, it’s about to get brutal.

Quick vocab lesson: “heresiarch” refers to “the founder of a heresy or the leader of a heretical sect.” Yet on Ordinance, Heresiarch betray that namesake by sticking pretty closely to the murky blackened death peddled by many other bands in this style, particularly country-mates Diocletian. As expected there’s plenty of blastbeats, battering riffs, and überguttural roars across Ordinance’s 44 minutes. Everything here feels like it’s designed to crush, from the bassy and dense mix to the gargantuan guitars that sound like they require tremendous energy just to shift a single chord. The tone is immense and ragged, conveying images of exploding shrapnel and trench warfare. Likewise, the riffs themselves are chaotic, violent, and noisy, remaining just discernible enough to actually be heard and appreciated.

Opener “Consecrating Fire” sets the tone from the start with slow trudging riffs that later give way to marching snare hits and layered roaring. At four minutes it’s a bit long for what’s essentially a mood-setting intro, but that’s almost forgiven with follow-up “Storming Upon Knaves.” The album’s first taste of true war metal blasting, “Storming” feels familiar yet exciting as it piles power chords atop power chords before syncing up all instruments in a rapid chug that sounds like a tank engine revving to life. Later tracks punctuate their brutality with a bit more character. Early highlight “Ruination” strides forth on a confident ironclad riff that invokes images of an encroaching army, while “Iron Harvest” and “Righteous Upsurgence” feature soaring tremolos that sound like metal girders being twisted apart.

Heresiarch 2017

Just like Wælwulf, Ordinance varies its tempo just enough to add welcome variety. “The Yoke” closes out the record’s first half with marching beats and sludgy guitars, while aforementioned “Harvest” evolves from a stomping tempo to frantic bashing to a delightfully groovy march. Closer “Desert of Ash” is outright doom metal, layering its battle-worn chords with a weary, echoing melody that evokes the smoldering glory of Bolt Thrower. If there’s any complaint to be had with Ordinance, it’s that these moments don’t come often enough. A bit too much of the album’s runtime feels bloated with the same churning guitars that offer little chromatic interest and instead serve merely to pummel. It’s the classic war metal dilemma: the style aims to be noisy and aggressive, but too much of that results in monotony. Ordinance never quite steps over that line completely, but a few more notable riffs like those in “Ruination” could have really elevated Heresiarch above the pack.

Fortunately, the performances sound menacing and commanding, particularly vocalist “N.H.” who alternately screams and roars with maniacal conviction. Likewise, the occasional wild solo and disjointed chug convey vivid images of flailing hand-to-hand combat. At the end of the day, Ordinance feels like a record made by war metal fans for war metal fans, a record that offers plenty of barbaric aggression but is crafted with enough structure and memorability to avoid being a slog. While it won’t be dethroning the bigger names in the style anytime soon, it will certainly fuck your face off and sit nicely alongside your collection of Diocletian and Axis of Advance CDs. Sometimes, maybe war doesn’t need to change.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Descent Records
Website: facebook.com/heresiarchcult
Releases Worldwide: July 7th, 2017

Share →
  • Eli Valcik

    The cover art want me to get into this so bad. But this just isn’t my jam.

  • Grymm

    If the vocalist’s name isn’t New Hampshire, I’m gonna be pissed.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      At the very least it should be his nickname because that’s where he’s from.

  • Nukenado

    (David Hayter voice)
    War… has changed…
    This doesn’t suffer from Dragonforce syndrome!

  • Norpal Nordickson

    This is not the Bolt Thrower I was looking for.

    • Eli Valcik

      Check out resistance by memoriam if you’re looking for some Bolt Thrower

      • Norpal Nordickson

        Yup I am aware of Memoriam. Good stuff.

  • R.Daneel Olivaw
    • Nag Dammit

      I feel bad for pointing it out but I think you pronounce it ‘seriousree’.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Trying to guess how one would pronounce the name of their 2014 E.P. brought to mind a favourite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d7a8cc0a296feddf451b2481fe7a2d2976a11297228ad5b62d41508fd3d9c336.jpg

    • Nag Dammit

      Strangely, that screen cap is reminiscent of their band photo also.

  • Reese Burns

    It’s funny how I read this opening paragraph about twenty minutes after giving my whole paycheque to Hell’s Headbangers…

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      You should never give more than half of your paycheck to Hells Headbangers. The other half goes to Iron Bonehead.

      • Eli Valcik

        I like Season of Mist quite a bit.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Unspeakable Axe is also a label deserving of one’s whole paycheck.

          • Phil Daly

            I, Voidhanger, Agonia and WTC get a decent chunk of mine these days!

          • Reese Burns

            In return for your recommendation, allow me to refer you to Northern Silence Productions, your new favourite black metal label!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            First thing I saw on their website was Belenos, you might be quite right!

          • Reese Burns

            Saor, Caladan Brood, Heretoir, Ghost Bath, Skyforest, Violet Cold… it’s an all-star lineup!

      • Reese Burns

        But those Portal represses and wall flags though…

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I suspect a Unicorn will soon walk into that band photo.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    If Paolo Girardi is doing your album cover there is a good chance the artwork is better than the music. This is one of those cases.

    • welyyt

      Girardi is the best. If you follow him on Facebook, there’s an awesome video of him getting drunk in his studio and singing Manowar shirtless.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        He’s got like 10 thousand Metal cred points for that!

        • Humbug! That’s every Friday night for me.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Isn’t that every Friday night for EVERYONE?

          • Name’s Dalton

            Sadly, no.

          • Eli Valcik

            When I get drunk I try to do Maiden or Dio.
            “where was your staaaar? was it far? was it far? FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!”

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Next time you’re drunk go for Manowar’s Battle Hymn.

          • Eli Valcik

            When I do I’ll go for warriors of the world.

          • [not a Dr]

            You made a typo: you wrote “Friday” instead of ” “.

    • ssorg

      This is an interesting point. An exception is his uncharacteristically dull cover for Manilla Road. On the other side of things, the new Power Trip is certainly worthy of its cover.

      • Reese Burns

        I’d say Bell Witch earned theirs as well.

    • hallowed

      Only this isn’t Girardi. Artwork is made by Misanthropic-Art.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Shit, that is a massive fuck-up on my part. It looked to be in Girardi’s typical style and I didn’t check. Correction added to OP. Thanks for clearing that up!

      • ssorg

        Weird! I totally assumed this was Girardi as well. Looking through Misanthropic Art’s ouvre, it’s def the most Girardi-looking of everything they’ve done.

  • Eli Valcik

    “War… It’s changed”-Snake.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Heresiarch is a really cool name.

    • Name’s Dalton

      I’ll give ’em points for that.

    • Grimstrider

      …I just keep reading it as “Horseradish.”

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        If they had gone with a more twisted logo they could have pulled off the good ol’ Heresiarch-Horseradish switcheroo

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This artwork would really be great for a Bolt Thrower album. In fact, the only thing better than having this art featured on a Bolt Thrower album would be the album itself.

  • ssorg

    Ah I kinda like this. And the deep bass in Consecrating Fire is a nice headphone treat, rumbling away deep below the martial snares. Maybe I don’t listen to enough of the good stuff in this genre to be worn out, but I am enjoying this.

  • Nathan McCain

    Excellent stuff. I’m hearing a lot of Angelcorpse in the faster parts, and the chuggier bits are delightful! As you said, this just crushes despite its relatively high DR; this is a big hit with me.

  • CANNIBALdinner

    heard a million things like this before…..

  • jersey devil

    Great record. Crushing heavy. There seems to be some Incantation influence in a few of the songs (i.e., the last song).