Well, here we are again. It’s the middle of the night, and like many warm nights before this, I sit here on my back porch punching away on my laptop to bring you yet another review of yet another black metal band. Like so many albums in this genre, Kommandant’s newest The Architects of Extermination demands absolute peace and isolation from the real world to fully appreciate its worth, and let creep in the suffocating talons of a starless night. While “peace” may swirl around me on this mild night, it is every bit nonexistent in the space between my headphones and rattling eardrums. Hailing from Chicago and proclaiming to be the purveyors of “martial black metal,” Kommandant don their Sunday best (consisting of black dress shirts and gas masks), raise banners and wind-torn blackened flags of time-honored propaganda, and set the rhythmic march to the local courthouse. Good thing I’m in no short supply of black button-ups.
After releasing Kommandant‘s run-of-the-mill debut Stormlegion, it took close to four years for guitarist Jim Bresnahan, with the help of ex-Nachtmystium members, to reform Kommandant taking the band in a newfangled direction with The Draconian Archetype. Having slopped through their fair share Chicago black-metal sewers, these military-boot clad revolutionaries venture eons away from their Reign of the Malicious contributions and proceed into unsettling atmospheres, walloping feedback, and metal-on-metal industrializations crudely spray-painted in black and red. Opener “Let Our Vengeance Rise” is the definition of atmosphere and mood on TAoE. It grows with Primordial-like anxiety into the rap-tap-tapping of marching snares before settling into a mid-paced “groove.” With the stage now set, the title track carries the flag through blistering fast alternate picking, creepy interludes, and Gaahl-meets-Attila Csihar croaks lethal enough to aquatic life.
Other tracks like the disconcerting “Acquisition of Power” and vile “Rise and Fall of Empire” make you long for – or downright abhor – the “Funeral Fog.” The former has a murkiness that recalls Ævangelist and the latter reeks of an old-school Mayhem that blasts its way through imperial rubble with pure hate and aggression. And as if that wasn’t enough, “Rise and Fall of Empire” buries you in echoing “cathedral chants” reminiscent of Gaahl and leaves you for dead with anguishing Tom Warrior-esque screams. Sometimes it’s good to be so helpless.
However, it’s not the troubling atmospheres alone that carry this album. Without the drum work in tracks like “And Nation Shall Rise Against Nation,” “Onward to Extinction,” and bonus track “Killing Word,” this near forty-minute jaunt would lose its appeal rather quickly. The massiveness of David Swanson’s drums in “Killing Word” reminds me of the mid-paced hammering of Watain’s “Stellarvore” that engulfs the the song in an ominous air of militant oppression. Closer “Onward to Extinction” expands on this formula but encloses it in an inescapable fence of tremolo picking that forces you under Swanson’s deliberate gavel. Both of these tracks are highlights on TAoE but you’ll have to pitch in for the deluxe edition to obtain the former. Those meanies.
Slap on a DR7 and you have a mix that mellows out the potential thrashing your inner ear would receive from a compressed end-product of wavering feedback, buzz-saw guitars, and pounding drums. The recording is solid and the out-front rhythm section puts the guitars and vocals in a position to build the mood and blanket you with a cloth of chaotic bliss. Still leaving something to be desired after subjecting listeners to Kommandant’s full potential in “Let Our Vengeance Rise,” “Onward to Extinction,” and “A Nation Shall rise Against Nation,” TAoE progresses greatly from The Draconian Archetype and leaves the once-travelled Stormlegion territories far behind. Not perfect by any means and definitely to be disliked by detesters of these stylings of blackened death, Kommandant’s “taboo” image and their “the enemy is us” mentality is a nice change from the standard satanic subject matter. Those interested will find TAoE’s fire and passion intoxicating and it will submerse you deep in its chord-ial maelstrom. Stumps be damned. Strap on that mask and do something with your lives.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum
Websites: KommandantOfficial | Facebook.com/Kommandant
Release Dates: EU: 2015.05.11 | NA: 05.05.2015