A few months back, I received a direct message from TheKenWord, informing me that I should check out the debut album from Worcester, Mass. crossover thrashers High Command. Due to the fact that I’m a fool, and due to the fact that I generally feel as if I’m treading water six feet below the surface of the Sea of Good New Music, I slept on Ken‘s recommendation for far too long. I soon began to hear rumblings about Beyond the Wall of Desolation both in the comments here and in the metal community abroad, so I finally forced myself to taste of the fruit that the record has to offer. It’s a good thing that this fruit comes pre-pulverized in smoothie form, because High Command‘s brand of thrash lands like a swift punch to the mouth and I found myself sans teeth in short order.
High Command inhabits the same realm as modern crossover bands like Power Trip and Enforced, but they add a few touches to the usual “take the groovy rhythm portions and squealing leads of Slayer and add hardcore shouting” recipe to make their product stand out from the pack. Fantastical themes and atmosphere, a NWoBHM on steroids a la Kill ‘Em All attitude, and a demented vocal performance from Kevin Fitzgerald that verges upon those found in blackened thrash combine to make Beyond the Wall of Desolation a unique and captivating experience from the start of “Inexorable Darkness” until the closing fade of the title track.
Just about every song here is a killer. “Merciless Steel” sounds like Slayer doing “Seek and Destroy” as it, in my mind, pays homage to our site’s loving taskmaster and vengeful life coach Steel Druhm.1 Guitarists Razzle and Ryan McArdle wield their riffs like the helmeted figure on the cover wields its flail, bludgeoning with the fast (“Beyond the Wall of Desolation,” “Inexorable Darkness”), the slow (“Devoid of Reality,” “Visions from the Blade”), and the deliciously mid-paced (“The Commander’s Code,” “Forged to Kill,” “Impaled Upon the Gates”). At 8 tracks and 42 minutes in length, Beyond never once threatens to bog down as its powerful siege engine methodically bashes your defenses bit by bit. The production is a bit loud and crowded, but the wall of
desolation sound and filthy guitar tone suit the style here very well.
As far as I know, we never received a promo for Beyond the Wall of Desolation, but I’m eternally grateful to TheKenWord and to our faithful readers for bringing it to my attention. High Command have delivered a critical hit for double crushing damage on their debut and should find themselves quickly climbing the ranks of the thrash hierarchy. I can’t believe I nearly slept on one of the best thrash offerings of 2019. Don’t you do the same!
Killer Songs to Lose Your Teeth to: “Merciless Steel,” “The Commander’s Code,” “Visions from the Blade”