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The Army of Darkness Fighting for Freedom - 86%

bayern, September 16th, 2020

This army started fighting way earlier as a matter of fact, in the early-90's to be more precise, under the name Occult, and their dabbling in the occult led to two a bit dodgy thrash/black/death/and-something-else mixtures initially, before the band found their stride with the vehement thrash/death masterpiece “Of Flesh and Blood” and never looked back, their potent hyper-active spells adeptly supervised by the “witch” behind the mike, Rachel Heyzer.

For this next enterprise Heyzer is gone, but the style remains pretty much the same, intense classic thrash/death that was swiftly reflected in two vitriolic slabs before the guys took a break and re-released the last Occult album “Elegy for the Weak”. Just a few months later they were up and ready with a new opus (“Cult of the Dead”) the well-established formula capitalized on once again with aggression and energy to spare.

The album reviewed here doesn’t drastically alter the approach, but such a dedicated seismic steam-rolling attitude has to be respected even if this isn’t anything new. A wise step was the bigger gap left between albums which also made the fans crave the guys’ vigorous sounds more. On top of that, apart from the staple no-bars-held headbangers ("Nocturnal Commando", "Warhounds of Hades") the band diversify the palette a bit, and before you have fallen mosh-dead under the table, comes "Charnel Confession", a really cool meandering near-progressive proposition, a delectable cross of fast-paced sweeps and more meticulously-arranged excursions. Venerable speed metal hymns ("Black Banners in Flames") breezy by later, their “eagle fly free” optimism also aptly supported by the odd galloping horse-rider (the title-track), the setting darkened by the uncompromising wild shredder "Palace of Sin" and the unbridled near-death experience "Azazel´s Crown".

To these ears the highlight seems to be "Dark Coronation", a pounding more technical number which retains the speedy delivery to a large extent, the band providing a wider array of time and tempo-changes for a thrilling high-octane ride. There will be few unhappy with this sincere slab of old school thrash kickassery that also wins a couple of points from the mean spiteful witch-like vocals… no, again this isn’t Heyzer but Maurice Swinkels, the man who took over the mike on the last Occult album and has been behind it ever since, possesses a very similar hissy timbre, a sinister lurking presence which easily fits the intense musical pageants. The band operate like a well-polished machine, everything clicks and clocks exactly where it has to… there simply can’t be a more suitable soundtrack for the army of darkness’ second ascension… both the undead and the damned will have a lot of fun with these belligerent tunes; victory’s at hand, in this or in the afterlife.