Way back in high school, some friends and I tried to put together the “ultimate metal band” by picking our favourite musicians and pretending that, by an unbelievable amount of dumb luck, that they’d all work together as artists and bring their main bands’ caliber of music to the table. I forget exactly what band we settled on, but I’m convinced it involved Alex Webster, Dave Lombardo, and Dimebag Darrell. What this band would sound like, we hadn’t a clue – we just assumed it would be awesome. When it comes to death-doom, Siege of Power are one of these combinations dreamed up by enthusiastic fans: Bob Bagchus (ex-Asphyx, Soulburn, Infidel Reich) on drums, Chris Reifert (Autopsy) on vocals, Paul Baayens (Asphyx, ex-Hail of Bullets) on guitar, and Theo van Eekelen (ex-Hail of Bullets, ex-Grand Supreme Blood Court) on bass. Warning Blast was set to be one unstoppable slab of doomy death metal.
That is, until it wasn’t. Siege of Power are far more interested in playing some punk infused death-doom, or what it would sound like if death-doom musicians tried to start an old hardcore-adjacent band. Conveniently, this is almost exactly what Warning Blast represents. A big influence seems to be Carnivore, as the proceedings are largely scattershot and sound impulsive, lending them a peculiar energy. I’m also reminded of Hatebreed, their hardcore tinged heavily by earlier and burlier death metal. Baayens, a tremendous guitarist and one of contemporary metal’s most underrated players, nonetheless has a particular and distinct style of riffing in the lineage of his forebear Eric Daniels, and this means much of the riffs here recall Asphyx and Hail of Bullets none too subtly.
All of this makes Siege of Power tremendously difficult to evaluate. I find myself enjoying songs like “Torture Lab,” which sees Baayens and Bagchus comfortably playing hardcore as if Asphyx was heading in that direction. Those simple melodies are there too, and they’re still effective. Old Autopsy gets done the Baayens way during the intro and outro of the wonderfully titled “Bulldozing Skulls,” and hearing what sounds like one of death-doom’s greats taking on the sound of a genre great, for however fleeting a moment, is fantastic. The two pure slow burners, being “The Cold Room” and the title track, are predictably the record’s best material. Reifert is allowed proper room to be his unrestrained self vocally, while Baayens and Bagchus are clearly in their element, making for effortlessly good performances from both. “Escalation” is driven by the melodic sense of Baayens, and the band underneath is an absolute powerhouse, with Reifert sounding somewhere in the ballpark of The Tomb Within in his best performance on the record.
It’s abundantly clear that Siege of Power love Carnivore, Discharge, Amebix, S.O.D., and old extreme music in general. And, this is an album written ostensibly in that style by death-doom experts. Opening with “Conquest” sets a mediocre tone for Warning Blast as a whole, as its simplistic riffing does little to elevate itself above serviceable. Reifert’s vocals also sound less demented than in Autopsy, and this is conspicuous on numerous songs. “Bulldozing Skulls” becomes boring when it gets punky, and “For the Pain” spends too much time sounding like an under-cooked version of “Incoming Death” but is almost salvaged by a massive riff in its conclusion. “Diatribe” fails to go anywhere interesting, and rides a nondescript riff for nearly its whole run-time, except for an engaging few seconds at its close. Overall, the faster hardcore bits of Warning Blast fail to connect in a meaningful way, and that these comprise much of the record is a damning flaw.
Perhaps Warning Blast was damned by selfish and overly high expectations. Perhaps the quality simply isn’t there. Perhaps it’s both, and Siege of Power is an interesting but unnecessary listening experience. It’s clear everyone in Siege of Power is having fun, but much of Warning Blast sounds like a few buddies jamming out some random ideas – both outtakes from their main or ex bands and stuff they liked that wouldn’t fit those catalogs – and is seeing the light of day largely because of the pedigree of their legendary bands and undeniable talent and immeasurable influence on the scene as a whole. Siege of Power thus stands on the shoulders of the colossus of its members’ own making, which is an uncomfortable and unenviable position. I wanted to like Warning Blast far more than I did, both as a fan and a reviewer.