Dread Sovereign – Alchemical Warfare Review

I enter this review with a certain amount of trepidation. Two writers whom I thought would be interested in Alchemical Warfare, Dread Sovereign’s third album, were not. Akerblogger reviewed their last effort, and when I offered this to him he said, “all yours.” When I mentioned this new album to Grymm, who like myself is a big fan of Primordial, he said “they don’t do anything at all for me.” Well, not exactly ringing endorsements, but I was still willing to take a chance and hope for the best. Nemtheanga is one of my favorite singers, and after the disappointment of the last Primordial album, I’m really hoping he’s got his mojo back here and can deliver something rife with energy and passion. Now I haven’t heard this band’s first two outings, so I approach this album with a clean palate and minimal expectations.

After a brief intro the trio kick into high gear with “She Wolves of the Savage Season,”1 a real tongue twister. Despite the intro, this song has its own drawn-out opening, meaning we’re a good three or four minutes into proceedings before the band heaves into true blackened rock ‘n’ roll form. The song is awesome once it’s rolling, but the final three minutes are just a jam, meaning this ten-minute song is really less than five quality minutes. It’s a worrisome trait that is repeated more than once (“Nature is the Devil’s Church”2 and “Her Master’s Voice” both take a while to lurch into form). If the extraneous beginnings and endings of some of these songs were culled, we would be onto something.

When Dread Sovereign hit it hard and strip all the fat off the carcass, they really give us some stellar music. One of the best examples would be “The Great Beast We Serve,”3 which rolls along with an absolutely superb anthemic, ponderous riff. At half the length of “She Wolves…,” the song hits fast and sticks with the listener long after the driving double-bass ending. “Devil’s Bane” is the most blackened rocker on Alchemical Warfare, taking elements of Venom and Mötörhead and melding them into some sort of pagan blast. Averill is big into Bathory, as is evidenced in his work with Twilight of the Gods a few years ago and the vibe that permeates Alchemical Warfare. In fact, the album ends with a bonus track, a frantic cover of Bathory’s “You Don’t Move Me (I Don’t Give A Fuck).”

I don’t know if the band was able to record together on this album, what with things as they’ve been recently, but it sounds as if they are, and they demonstrate strong chemistry with each other throughout. There are no producer credits to be found, and I’m guessing the band self-produced this album. The sound quality is bang on, featuring just a hint of sloppiness which perfectly suits the style. Overproducing this would have been awful. But where a real producer would have come in handy would be with the song arrangements. Paring back the longer tracks and sticking to the real crux of each song would have lent a far greater impact to the entire album.

This fifty-two-minute album could have been sliced down to forty-two and would have been a lot more vital, immediate, and kick-ass. Save the jams for the live gigs and just deliver the meat on the bone here on the studio release. Those times when the band shines are superb, and on every track, Nemtheanga nails his vocals with a passion not heard on Exile Amongst the Ruins. As it stands, Alchemical Warfare gives us some excellent songs but also a lot of unnecessary moments.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: dreadsovereign.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dreadsovereign
Release Worldwide: January 15th, 2021

Show 3 footnotes

  1. I told my fiancée this song was about her.
  2. No it’s not. It is a beautiful and peaceful place.
  3. Would that be… METAL???
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