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The Sacrificial Flame is the only other Mhorgl record I own, so this monster came as a huge fucking surprise. Compared to the somewhat out-there form and concept of the debut, Heresiarch is a tight, raw black metal beast with heaps of thrash and death metal influences. There's tons of great leads, wrathful and piercing black metal rasps, and amazingly complex and scorchingly fast drumming. To be honest, too much to absorb in one sitting, but enough jumps out right away for this to be an immediate hit. That's right. Get fucken' involved!
You're getting to hear some of the best extreme metal craftsmen in Australia with this shit. Guitarist Robert Thorpe is a master of seemingly anything he wants, working his ferociously technical wizardry through spleens of relentless, shredding guitar solos, groovy and catchy thrash riffs and of course a bunch of menacing tremolo picking. While these tremolo lines aren't quite timeless classics, they are memorable and extremely serviceable and in tandem with his versatility, his ability at various other styles of playing, mark him down as a killer guitarist in my book. Also, alongside the new Impiety material it is, for me, the best way to enjoy one of Australia's best kit abusers. Louis Rando is a ridiculously good drummer and never fails to impress, but this is easily one of his best performances - perhaps because the songwriting he and the other guys in the band are putting together here gives him space to experiment and show off.
I don't quite want to go song-by-song here but it bears mentioning that the non-stop battery of remorselessly good and viciously fast songs at the beginning of the album, unbroken by interlude or breather, went a long way to winning over my heart straightaway. The early part of the album sets an increasingly frantic pace ending up sounding as Impaled Naz as it does Immortal by the time you get to 'Black Wolf Militia'. Nope, no Watain ripoff this. Just a riff Venom would kill for, unhinged soloing and irresistible groove, an instant classic basically. I listen to this thing constantly. 'Ravenous Wargod' is also very hooky and pummeling, loads of funky bass work, powering guitars and slavering vocal chants. Ravenous wargod infuckendeed. Then that nasty blast halfway...this song was made to turn Mhorgl concerts into a living hell. 'Fallen' is the best bit of all out thrashing to be had on the record. Pure headbanging. But those sinister black metal chords still make their dominating presence known.
As I say, variety out the shoot. Songs like 'Inheriting The Mantle Of Power', 'Ophidian Legacy' and 'Impiety Storm' curry some flavours from Rando's other band, the excellent The Furor, but the frenetic energy, catchy riffs and unbridled aggression (in particularly the latter two mentioned) make it very much its own monster. Not to mention it is compositionally tighter than that band, utilising repeated riffs and motifs alongside the sudden drum tattoos and booming breaks (not to denigrate The Furor but this material is far more immediately enthralling - and in fact works as a good gateway to appreciating the style of that band, as I found myself).
The album is also dotted by a number of woeful, folky interludes twanged out on classical guitar that first arise after those first four facefucking songs. They aren't necessary and like many interludes don't make a whole lot of sense - but unlike most interludes, they somehow work very very nicely. Not only are they well played and often quite beautiful, they make for a good breather and atmospheric set piece between the militant carnage all around. Just you know, so you know. But it kinda fits with the album's (accidental or deliberate) theme of throwing together loads of different stuff and then somehow having it all work really cunting well in the end.
These guys are very fucking far from not knowing what they're doing. The diversity of the album, as I keep hammering home, is one of its strengths. The listener is constantly shaken up by schizophrenic changes of mood and mind. But it's unified by the malevolently crushing and precise war on the senses the entire record presents. Everyone will experience and understand this differently. I loathe to fall back on rancid cliche, but there it is. The fact is though that Heresiarch is an immediate and aggressive album that, given the right circulation, can and will pull in both veterans looking for instrumentally and conceptually challenging black metal, and those dabbling toes at the thrashier more Watain-y, Destroyer 666-y outskirts of the genre. A great slab of convulsive and blackened Australian fury. Get it.
The experience of the members in Mhorgl is evident, with the numerous acts that each of the members have been a part of (including Louis, who played drums for Singapore's Impiety as well). The band releases their third full length album Heresiarch this year, one short year after their previous effort, Antinomian. Reviews of previous releases see people talking about the unique style of black metal that the band plays, and this certainly gets me fascinated, not knowing what to expect on Heresiarch.
Despite the melodic black metal tag that some have given the band, what is presented by the band right from the start is aggressive and furious raw black metal. Right from Inheriting the Mantle of Power, the band does not give the listener any chance to back off, hitting listeners in the face with their speed and intensity. Without having to wait for much longer, the band displays the variety of styles that they have incorporated in their music, with guitarist Robert punctuating trem-picked riffs with constant pinch-harmonics, adding a unique flavour to the music. Furthermore, the guitar solos that are provided on the album are mostly full-on shred, fully displaying the capabilities of Robert on his instrument, with bassist James providing the rumbling low-end with his bass. Drummer Louis displays his hyperactivity behind the kit, not stopping for a moment and not displaying a single sign of tiredness despite the speed that he is blasting at. The urgency that the band typically travels at reminds listeners of bands like Absu as well.
The songs that the band has written also do not follow any conventional black metal patterns, with songs like Ophidian Legacy providing an almost progressive touch to the style of the band, and the fiddling with the guitars at the background makes the song sound almost avant-garde and experimental. The whole wall of sound provided by each of the instruments makes for this album to be a busy one, as every single moment is filled with activity by more than one single instrument, keeping listeners enchanted throughout. Even so, the band manages to display the emotions that are present on the songs, through the desperation in Sam's vocals and the urgent lead guitar lines of Robert.
Throughout the album, numerous influences from various other genres can be spotted as well. Songs like Black Wolf Militia even incorporate riffs that sound like it could come off a rock & roll record, and Ravenous Warlord provides some punk-ish moments as well, further pushing the boundaries of what "conventional" black metal entails, though there are also moments of black/thrash metal littered throughout. Then there are the soft moments on the album like on the interlude The Seed of Rebellion and Hostis Humani Generis, where only an acoustic guitar is present, sounding like it could come off a Neil Zaza album with the soothing and calming melodies, marking the opening and closing of Fallen, and this is definitely a nice touch to the song. Later tracks also make use of such techniques as well, to my pleasant surprise.
Heresiarch, while having incorporated elements of numerous other genres in the songs that are present, is still fundamentally black metal. This album is certainly not recommended for traditionalists and would perhaps make an enjoyable listen for the more adventurous fan of extreme metal, who are looking for a break in the monotone in the black metal circle in recent years.