Hey, remember what I said about supergroups last year? In 2008, there was another conglomeration of established musicians based out of France called The Order of Apollyon, and it consisted of B.S.T. (Aosoth), James McIlroy (ex-Cradle of Filth, Chaosanct), Peter Benjamin (ex-Akercocke, Voices) and Dan Wilding (Carcass, Trigger the Bloodshed). Such a who’s who of death and black metal would create a whirlwind of head-twirling mayhem, right? Well, 2010’s The Flesh debut fell upon the unwashed masses in a sea of meh, revealing promise but not fulfilling it. Well, five years later, B.S.T. soldiers on with a new line-up, renewed focus, and a spring in his booted steps with The Sword and the Dagger. How does it sound? In one word: Polish.
Now, that’s not a slam against The Order of Apollyon whatsoever. But you can tell from the first proper track, “Hatred Over Will,” that they do love their Behemoth and Vader albums. The riffing of B.S.T. and S.R. (aka Saroth, Temple of Baal) is frantic yet purposeful, cleaving left and right as S.K. (aka Skvm, Temple of Baal) pummels along on the drums like a rhino on the purest of black Colombian gold. Melodic tremolo sections and a sweet solo near the end, and already I’m anticipating a more solid record.
And “solid” is putting it ever so mildly, because that’s The Sword and the Dagger at its very worst. The new line-up has definitely inspired B.S.T. to put forth some of his best music yet for The Order of Apollyon, as there are no clunkers on this record. “Al ‘ankabout” injects some Middle-Eastern influence in some of the intro melodies but thankfully avoids aping Nile in the process. “Hold Not Thy Peace, O God of My Praise” challenges Nergal and company in not only lofty song titles, but also in bringing some incredible atmosphere through sheer speed and riff magick. And speaking of atmosphere, “Our Flowers Are the Sword and the Dagger” stands out for not only some of the best songwriting on the album, but those final two minutes are some of the best windmill-inducing riffs, tremolo melodies, and tastefully fast drumming this album contains. If your head ain’t moving and you’re not dual-wielding invisible citrus, check your pulse.
There are some complaints I have to levy against The Sword and the Dagger, with the production being chief among them. Simply put, this sucker is loud. There are no dynamics at all, and you can barely eek out bassist F.D. Also, B.S.T.’s vocals periodically sound like they’re going to give out at times, but with repeated listens, they eventually won me over. I would have also placed closing track “Omnis Honor et Gloria” elsewhere on the album because, despite how good the song is, it’s the most tepid of the entire album.
So The Order of Apollyon avoided both the Sophomore Slump and the Supergroup Curse with The Sword and the Dagger. I’ve been needing a fix of quality blackened death metal for quite a while now, and this album fit the bill perfectly. I’m now going to kick back, grab a lemonade, and headbang to “Our Flowers Are the Sword and the Dagger” for the hundredth time today.