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Epic death metal masterpiece - 90%

dismember_marcin, April 24th, 2012

I can’t believe how criminally underestimated this band is and in the times, when the metal underground praises many absolutely crappy bands, such jewels remain unnoticed and their awesome albums seem to have disappeared in the flood of releases, which pop up every week. But I seriously advice you to consider getting interested in Ares Kingdom, as this band will truly kick your ass with gigantic metal riffs and killer songwriting, all presented in the most traditional of all ways. And with the outstanding production, which from one hand is rightfully clear, but which also kept the feeling of playing live and the necessary distortion and obscurity of the genre, in the end the band is delivering the energy, with which every metal album should be filled with and which we – diehard metal maniacs – love to get, when killer songs hit you right in the face and you react in the only true way - with maniacal headbanging. Yeah, “Incendiary” has it all. And I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised that this band has managed to deliver such a high class metal album, as it has got some very experienced musicians in the ranks. Mentioning Chuck Keller from the Order From Chaos fame is the most noticeable, this man stood behind one of the most impressive and relentless US death metal bands known to mankind and while Pete Helmkamp chosen the unstoppable brutality of his Angel Corpse, Keller opted for slightly different, but equally killer sound, which is what Ares Kingdom plays. I also must mention Keller’s Vulpecula here, another fine band, which sadly split up, but whose “In Dusk Apparition” LP, which Invictus Productions released in 2006, eight years after its recording, is another highlight in the career of this guitarist. But I can truly say that “Incendiary” is definitely the best album this man has composed, although I must also admit that I haven’t heard the previous full length, “Return to Dust”, so I don’t know whether such brilliancy only just appeared with the second album or it was also present on the debut (I’ll check it out soon though, my copy of “Return to Dust” has been already ordered).

OK, but let’s focus on “Incendiary” more, shall we? In the previous paragraph I called Ares Kingdom’s music simply “metal”. Because this is METAL!!! I mean it. Ares Kingdom sounds 100% metal, with classic instrumentalism, classic arrangements and only 100% metal riffs. The base of the whole sound and style of “Incendiary” lies in death metal of course, but the way this genre has been played here is so epic like no other death metal album I’ve heard in my life! This truly is monumental and powerful music, sometimes it’s even melancholic, but still such feelings like rage and aggression are present also. The songwriting is fitting this epic style perfectly, pushing some of the songs to the length of over six minutes (and “Abandon In Place” is eight minutes long), and during this time Ares Kingdom uses every opportunity to impress the listener, changing the tempos (although the album is never really fast, it’s rather mid paced or slow), smoothly making the transitions between the riffs and their mood and first of all, incorporating almost all metal subgenres into this one album. There are many heavy metal parts here (“Ashen Glory”), as well as the classic thrash metal riffs (to mention the title song could be enough here, I guess), speed metal… You name it! At many occasions it even reminds me the epic black metal style of recent Immortal albums (like in “Abandon In Place”)! But of course the death metal shadow floats over everything, with raspy vocals of Alex Blume (which are like a combination of Pete Helmkamp’s throaty shriek and early David Vincent’s more clear style of growling!!!) and dark atmosphere for instance.

And the songwriting... Yeah, Ares Kingdom composed amazing songs, which really stick with you and are relatively catchy in many fragments while keeping the intensity, aggression and energy. For instance I love this instrumental track titled “The Destruction of Sennacherib”, what a great song! The title track is another killer and such are also “Beasts That Perish”, “Abandon In Place” and “Gathering the Eagles”, which probably is my favourite track from the whole album! All in all I can tell you that Ares Kingdom is a special band and “Incendiary” is an album, which provides just awesome music. In many ways I can consider Ares Kingdom to be similar to what Wannes Gubbels is doing with his Pentacle. Both bands share the same kind of music and influences, both do that in great way, the atmosphere of their albums is similar and the lyrical themes are also close. So, if you consider yourself a metal fan, then I cannot imagine you not giving a chance to “Incendiary”. This is killer album and that’s it.

Look for this one on best-of-decade lists in 2020! - 95%

vorfeed, May 3rd, 2010

The production on this record is even better than on the first album, Return To Dust. This record has the same overall clarity, but there's more low-end and perhaps a bit more distortion as well, which lends the songs even more impact than before. The occasional samples are tastefully done, also, and serve to accentuate rather than distract from the music. As on the first record, the guitars and vocals are right up front in the mix, with audible bass work and crisp, clear drums in the background. The lead guitar sound is especially notable -- the solos sound fantastic, and I especially like the way they've been mixed to highlight the variation between the different guitar parts.

If Return To Dust was the product of a band working to get beyond the limitations of subgenre, then Incendiary is the result: on this record, Ares Kingdom soar way beyond categorization, "as blood red contrails streak the skies". This isn't death metal, thrash metal, or heavy metal; it's something new, yet something old, forged from the essential elements of all three. Ares Kingdom is a much-needed island in a sea of bands that sound like other bands, but at the same time, they are still undeniably metal.

The songwriting on Incendiary is often epic, yet it's also refreshingly straightforward. Nothing is progressive-for-progressive's-sake here: every single one of these songs is suitable for headbanging. "Ashen Glory" is the perfect example; it's a complex tune, heavy on instrumental parts, yet the whole thing is built around a driving, near-frantic riff/vocal pattern. "Descent of Man" goes the other direction, packing many different riffs and tempo changes into a little over seven minutes. Every transition is effortless, every part serves the overall whole, and when the song's climax finally arrives, it's amazing -- Chuck Keller's solos must be heard to be believed. There's even a good dose of classic metal influence, particularly on "Beasts That Perish"; the balance between old and new on this track is brilliant, especially during the conclusion.

There are shorter tracks on the record as well: "Incendiary" makes for a ripping opener and a perfect taste of what's to come, "Silent Moral Flesh (Convergence)" is an aggressively triumphant track that's among my favorites here, and there are a couple of roughly two-minute instrumental-only songs. I like the way the band upends the usual short/fast:long/slow formula: "Abandon in Place" is simultaneously the longest and most unhinged track on the record, with a greater amount of feral, bestial energy than 99% of the bands going under the name. The combination of thrashing guitar, pounding drums, and snarled vocals here should silence anyone who dares to wonder whether all this development has tamed this band! The extended solo at the end is the perfect way to close out the album.

The lyrics on Incendiary deserve special mention: very few metal bands have this level of lyrical maturity. Fortunately, Alex Blume's vocals are more than up to the task, as all of the words are perfectly understandable and delivered with tons of feeling and force. Taken together, "Incendiary" and "Descent of Man" examine the rise of religious fundamentalism, both in the West and the Middle East. "Silent Mortal Flesh (Convergence)" and "Ashen Glory" likewise seem to work together -- a "liberation and challenge" indeed -- and "Beasts That Perish" dares to denounce the nihilism, empty hedonism, and smug self-certainty that too often passes for "elitism" in metal. "Gathering the Eagles" captures the dangers of appeasement and the inevitability of war... and "Abandon in Place" is about nuclear fuckin' disaster, in case all that was too complicated for you!

This is getting to be a long review, so I'll put it simply: it's January 1, and Incendiary is the best record of 2010. I'll be shocked if anything better than this comes out this year, so I might as well say it now. Hell, you can look for this one on the best-of-decade lists in 2020... and if something like this is the future of heavy metal, I hope I'll still be around to hear it. Highest recommendations.

Standout tracks: "Silent Mortal Flesh (Convergence)", "Beasts That Perish", "Gathering the Eagles"

Review by vorfeed:

Ares Kingdom - Incendiary - 93%

saevus, November 5th, 2009

I have personally anticipated several albums this year by bands that infrequently offer up material and usually take their time to craft some of the best albums in their genre. Unfortunately, I've been disappointed by several of them, for although the releases were good, they failed to live up to previous works. However, Ares Kingdom is clearly still on the path of progress, and this year, they surpassed my expectations.

Ares Kingdom really pushed the envelope with “Incendiary”. Pretty much all elements found on “Return to Dust” are found here, just exaggerated. Most of the riffs are done in a very abrasive form of either thrash or more traditionally leaning heavy metal, eschewing overtly technical riffing usually found in death metal for more overreaching complexity of the composure of the songs, giving the music a timeless and very emotionally evocative feel. There is a higher contrast between the heavy, more aggressive elements and the more epic and melancholic ones, created within the massive song compositions and between them through the whole album. Duality is given prominence here, and the contrast used here gives each of the elements even more power where exclusive aggression or soberness could not reach presented by themselves. As an example, Abandon in Place builds itself up to a frenzied orgy of riffs and solos before quickly dropping off into a clean segment of overwhelming grief.

While most of the songs show this balance by themselves, some songs lean strongly one way or the other, recreating the concept on an album-wide scale. This is shown very strongly between the two short instrumentals, one being composed of solid heavy riffing and the other mostly somber clean guitar with the distorted guitar only faintly in the background. They seem to be almost a ying and yang to each other, but there’s always some subtle element to tie everything together.

Soloing is even more extensively used in “Incendiary” than previously. Unlike most solos I’ve heard other bands use, many of the ones here seem to be written to be inseparable parts of the songs, built into the structure instead of written after all of the main elements are finished. The solos are also themselves structured to prevent sounding excessive, going back and forth from full solos and more structured leads to bring them down to earth. The style between solos is as varied as the riffing, some of them being in the more classical heavy metal/rock vein (even sounding a little bluesy for brief moments) and at other times raging almost out of control.

The self-done production is again magnificent, although I don’t really detect too much of an improvement over “Return to Dust”. The guitar is perfectly distorted and heavy, and all of the elements are clearly audible with a natural sound free of too much processing, especially the gruff vocals and the excellent drumming, making it a very honest sounding recording. Some elements seem to be mixed at different levels in different places and this adds a bit more variation. However, on Beasts that Perish there is found one of the best riffs on the album, which is briefly played leading up to an awesome solo, but the riff seems to be mixed lower which I think detracts slightly from one of the best moments on the album. There are some samples used here, which I’m always a bit unsure of outside of campy horror/gore death metal. They don’t seem out of place though, a couple of them were slightly confusing upon initial listening for mixing and contextual reasons.

As usual for Ares Kingdom the lyrics are based around philosophy, history and war. There seems to be a focus on what dooms mankind has or will visit upon itself, although the apocalyptic element isn’t nearly as strong here as found on “Return to Dust” of course. The lyrics work well with everything else to enhance the overall feeling and atmosphere of the album.

There seems to be a conflicting need in nature to both stay the same and proliferate and to also advance and evolve as well. This is true of heavy metal as well, where you can not create anything truly great by either stagnating and creating something derivative or eschewing all tradition and constraints just for the sake of change. I think that Ares Kingdom has kept this in mind, and combined with their notable skill have created something destined to be classic.