While my fair U.K. may be enjoying something of a qualitative metal renaissance as of late, I’m still not sure I am entirely convinced. The raw ingenuity of Anaal Nathrakh, Akercocke and, of course, Voices has yet to be matched—their capacity for redefining parameters gone largely unchallenged. Last winter, I covered The King is Blind and their debut record, Our Father, a band that displayed a nascent capacity for a similar organic extremity. Now, little more than eighteen months later, follow up, We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer (WATPWATC), arrives in a bid to outmatch its sibling with a streamlined and entirely more cogent approach, calling forth a whole host of man-made demons to exercise judgment with extreme prejudice.
What was described as death/doom for the sake of review was as close an approximation as possible for the band’s own brand of “monolithic metal.” In reality, The King is Blind opt for a composite of extremes by borrowing from a myriad of influences. As such, the debut could be helpfully sorted into individual genres by track — this record is an infinitely leaner and more muscular affair. Armed with a brazen riff structure and more than a helping of HM-2 delight, these songs consist of dark, urban and, indeed, urbane decay. “Patriarch,” like all good openers should, encapsulates the record with Steve Tovey’s reverb-accentuated vocals breathing a furnace over distinctly blackened chord sequences. Accelerating into straight Stockholm riffing, alien guitar accents preside over the chorus, peaking with a belligerent outro riff that never fails to leave its mark.
Our Father followed a concept, detailing (in a nutshell) Man’s ultimate rejection of God, instead opting to exercise a “free will,” which is little more than another set of self-interested and self-imposed restrictions. WATPWATC continues the concept, as the sin of Capitalism and Commercialism re-powers Satan, who sets out to destroy Man and compound God’s failure once and for all. Sending his Seven Princes of Hell to earth in the guise of seven plagues, much of the record details the effect of each demon’s visitation and Satan’s increasingly churlish clash with God. Although WATPWATC is no didactic anti-christian diatribe, its palpable revulsion for the human condition exceeds its thematic limitation and almost exists as the band’s sixth member. “Embers From a Dying Son” radiates disgust at the western world’s innate capacity for greed and it seeps into Tovey’s blackened shriek amidst ferocious Swedeath rhythms. Equally vicious is “Mantra XIII,” full of punk attitude and the ever-advancing war-mastery of Bolt Thrower, even featuring the inimitable Karl Willetts as the demon Mammon. Interestingly, his first line is “Spearhead, crusader for victory” — if you don’t appreciate the reference then shame on you.
A vital sense of melody courses through the record, keeping pace but never tempering the witches brew of insistent punk and thrash motifs that limber the material. A doom evocation is never far behind either, in particular, “Like Gods Departed,” which surely exists as a nod to Paradise Lost. The song even features a solo that could well have been prised from the funerary fingers of Greg Mackintosh himself. Matching a chanted vocal with the gothic aesthetic, it’s once again guitarists, Lee James Appleton and Paul Ryan-Reader, that deserve particular mention. The album is rife with angry, blunt riffs and minute guitar intricacies that exist to emphasize rather than showboat.
Sat with the liner notes, the album feels very whole, and although it’s hard to penalize a band for adhering to their narrative, upon more casual listens, the latter half is slightly overshadowed by the record’s untouchable front. While the album does benefit from repeat listens, the dense riffs and immediacy that populate the first five songs have an increasing tendency to loom, although the metallic hardcore of “Idolatry of Self” and the post-grind, thrash alloy on “Godfrost” certainly aren’t without a spine. In fact, WATPWATC‘s most diverse cut, “The Burden of Their Scars,” closes the record, building a violent tumult that reveals a deceptively hopeful message.
This isn’t a band of young men full of freshly realized vitriol, screaming a sonic middle-finger to “the man;” this is a group of introspective veterans deftly articulating their disdain for a world increasingly unrecognizable, and a reviled disbelief of the self-orbiting culture that has risen in direct ignorance of it — escapism turned abject idiocy. This King is not Blind, it glares into our cesspit souls, strips back the hate rhetoric and theistic allusions and grimaces at our evolutionary arc. We Are the Parasite, We are the Cancer barely manages to contain its own inward sneer, and its content is all the more relevant for it.