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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.