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Being new to Doomsword I approached this release with a fair amount of expectation in the hope that it could save what has been a pretty crappy year for me album-wise, and behold! Doomsword are everything they have been made out to be and more.
In contrast to the mournful doom of My Dying Bride, or the atmospheric doom of Isis Doomsword play Epic doom with a capital E. This album is tied together with a concept based on the Viking siege of York in 866 so we are treated to the sounds of fire, crows, battle and marching as well as the usual metal assault. Let battle Commence is comprised of seven songs ranging in length from four to eight minutes (most are closer to eight) but they don’t wind and meander in the fashion of many long song writing bands, but strut their stuff with an air of powerful purpose which is only heightened by the theme of Pagans killing Christians within their own borders.
The music itself is pitched somewhere between Candlemass and Bathory (Viking era surprisingly) with plenty of nods to the NWOBHM and more modern bands like Solstice. “Heathen assault” begins with folky acoustic guitar and low sung vocals before charging straight into mid-paced crushing riffage and a rousing chorus of “Burn England to the ground!” The bands ability to craft memorable riffs and vocal lines is one of their great strengths, even after a single listen you feel like the melodies are familiar and before long you find yourself singing along. This could imply that the album yields all it’s secrets upon first or second listen but I am spinning it for what must be the tenth time as I write and the freshness is still there, I suppose only time will tell if it lasts.
Each song charts a different part of the conflict from the siege to the execution of the enemy king (oh no I gave away the end) and the accompanying music shifts tone with the theme. For the opening battle we have faster riffs which conjure images of the charge, whilst when the perspective switches to tell the story of the approaching hoard from the defenders point of view the music again uses quiet interludes and is sorrowful and downbeat. The songs themselves follow simple structures but always seem to save the best for last so that when you think it is coming to an end a great riff or lead smashes you in the face and commands your attention.
Reports I’ve heard have told that the production on the previous Doomsword albums were somewhat lacking but if that was the case they certainly sorted out the problem here. The guitars are crisp and punishing, drums have a very full sound and the Bass gives the riffs some real heft in the heavy sections. Another great point should be made about the vocals that are (mercifully) not too loud in the mix. Deathmaster does an admirable job, his clean vocals providing a great delivery for the lyrics but if they were overpowering I’m certain they would lose some of their appeal.
Let battle commence is a triumphant album which will surely raise Doomsword to the status of their influences, it has a real warrior spirit at it’s core and stimulates emotions to often overlooked by the to-cool-for-school modern metal crew who prefer to show of how extreme/crazy/technical they are than write really stirring music. This will surely be making my “best of year” position unless something really spectacular comes along. Metal needs bands like Doomsword to point the way