I’m always up for hearing music from bands who are pushing envelopes, crafting daring, original soundscapes of sheer genius that leave people slack-jawed and awestruck, inspiring young, budding musicians to pick up an instrument and pay homage to their ancestors. Morbid Angel was (at one point) one of those bands. As one of the godfathers of death metal, they paved the way for many bands to craft their own formulas most fatal to your flesh. So when you get a band from the Czech Republic named Heaving Earth, you damn well know what to expect: blasting drums, utterly bonkers guitar playing, and an atmosphere of thick, swampy evil. And on their second album, Denouncing the Holy Throne, those expectations are mostly met with satisfactory results.
With a gently strummed guitar and airy, whispy vocals… eh, who am I kidding? “The Final Crowning” slowly fades in with a riff clearly inspired by Arsis‘s awesome A Diamond For Disease, easing you in for one hell of a quick, twisty descent into the fiery pits of Hell. The riffing and tremolo work of guitarists Jaroslav Šantrůček and Tomáš Halama borrows just as much from Robert Vigna (Immolation) as it does from Mr. Azagthoth, with Jirka “Jurgen” Zajíc doing his damnedest to out-Pete Sandoval the competiton behind the kit in terms of ridiculous speed in both double-bass and fills. Even Michal Štěpánek’s guttural-yet-still-clear growls owe a sizable debt to David Vincent and Ross Dolan (again, Immolation). But you know what? I’d be lying to you if I said this didn’t put a sick, twisted grin on my face, as it shows a band not giving one single fuck about being original, and owning the fact that they’re all about shredding you apart in millions of bite-sized bloody morsels.
The other seven proper tracks also carve you mercilessly. “Jesus Died,” the epic of the album at over seven minutes, combines the murky aura of Domination-era of Morbid Angel with a memorable trebly tremolo melody to cap off the song, as if to celebrate the passing of Christ in a grotesque fashion. “I Am Nothing” injects a bit of atonality to enhance the non-stop blasting and wall of tremolo before going into a much-needed groove midway into the song. The clear standout of Denouncing the Holy Throne is easily “Doomed Before Inception,” with a tremolo part at 1:43-2:16 that not only must be a pain to play live, but also reminds me of the ice/water temple of an old 8-/16-bit RPG. That was probably not their intent, but it’s awesome as all get-out regardless!
For as much as I enjoyed Denouncing, there are some fairly big flaws. Remember when I said how merciless those eight tracks are? There are 12 songs on here, meaning four instrumentals, and none of them are essential. In fact, “And The Mighty Shall Fall” and “…Into the Sea of Fire” could have been tacked onto the ends of “Doomed Before Inception” and “Worms of Rusted Congregation,” respectively, and it would’ve been an improvement, and the complete omission of “…Where The Purified Essence Descends Ablaze” and album closer “Endless Procession of the Holy Martyrs/Final Termination.” wouldn’t have hurt either. Also, as is par for the course with this style of death metal, the production is squashed, with Pavel Šatra’s bass playing taking the biggest hit. If you try hard enough (or have a good set of headphones), you can pick him out, but barely.
Regardless, Heaving Earth impressed me with Denouncing the Holy Throne. Sure, it’s not even the slightest bit original, but it left me grinning and headbanging, and that’s what counts. If they can work out some of the kinks, they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with, perhaps even surpassing their idols.