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Spearhead - Decrowning the Irenarch - 90%

ThrashManiacAYD, October 21st, 2009

This is a poignant review for me to write given that it’s my first of a British band, it’s St. George’s Day today (our National Day – 23/4) but most importantly because it is truly one of the greatest Extreme Metal albums by a British band there has EVER been. It would be of no disservice to Spearhead to rate "Decrowning the Irenarch" up amongst the classics of Napalm Death, Carcass and the mighty Bolt Thrower, an impressive feat if you ask me.

Spearhead blast forth a mixture of Blackened Death Metal teeming with some Thrash-tacular moments for good measure, all with a precision and intensity rarely witnessed in this or any other day, drawing upon the war-obsessed teachings of the aforementioned Bolt Thrower as well as taking a leaf out of Destroyer 666's book of penning some truly fantastic riffs that most others could only dream of. The result is a display of outstanding maturity and confidence across all departments, notably including the drumwork of Vortigern who’s footwork resembles the flat-out power of a machine gun at the same time as his fills and subtlety with the hands ensure no ten seconds ever sound the same. Proceedings begin with the surprisingly angelic sounds of "Prolegomenon", however the majesty of the choral vocals is underpinned by the thuds of soldiers on the march, deeply symbolic of the militaristic nature of the album's lyrics. One cannot help feel a sense of grandeur in the riffs of "In The Face Of The Absolute" and "Mors Triumphalis" where often lightning fast guitar and drum work leads into slower sections that feel like the musical equivalent of national military parades - full of bravado, completely uncompromising and intent on total annihilation of anything that dare stand in the way.

Despite the complicated nature of some of the structures, solos are not forgotten and boy does Nephilim know how to create one. Not just a flashy show of cramming in as many notes in the shortest time possible oh no, but solos that pull the listener in with their connection to the song at large before fitting back into the mercenary procession of Angelcorpse-influenced riffaging that is the band's rhythm section. Rasped vocals can be likened to those of Carcass' Jeff Walker, being neither typical Black nor Death Metal offerings, and though they are similar throughout it is the lead guitar work that is most at the forefront, demanding mass attention in a manner that only Paris Hilton knows of (though I believe for very different reasons).

As Black/Death Metal albums go, there is little opportunity to be upset by any of the 38 minutes of "Decrowning the Irenarch", especially considering the relative inexperience of the band with this being just their second full-length. The album ends on a high note with the instrumental "Aftermath", featuring further displays of Spearhead's musical arsenal of intelligent lead work and quite un-Death Metal-like, gloriously hook-laden riffs, a factor I believe that should help this appeal to more than just the standard Black/Death Metal fan. It appears that wherever war exists Spearhead will draw imperious inspiration, and given mankind's love affair with killing each other whenever possible, Spearhead have all the chances of being a name-to-remember for years to come.

Originally written for

Once more into the breach.... - 94%

VRR, October 11th, 2009

....comes Spearhead with a thunderous wall of English death metal. Since their well-received 2005 debut "Deathless Steel Command", Spearhead has put time towards live performances and paused to assess their own particular brand of extreme metal. They return now with a re-formulation of their sound that abandons virtually any trace of their earlier blackened style. "Decrowning the Irenarch" is instead a 38 minute barrage of crushing war metal that is somewhat reminiscent of early Bolt Thrower. Or later Bolt Thrower for that matter. They are both quite similar.

As a complete album, "Decrowning The Irenarch" works exceptionally well. The tracks "Prolegomenon" and "Interregnum" establish the two halves of the album, and offer a brief respite before the second assault gets underway. When it does, the pace reverts back to face-ripping ferocity with precision double kicks and deathrash rhythms from Vortigern. Aside from the brutal percussion, every track contains a mass of riffage and spontaneous evolving ideas which hark back to the time before death metal became bored with its own form. Nephilim performs jagged, wandering solos dripping with harmonics and lightning shreds through an assortment of classic tones. Although only two of the tracks ever break the five minute mark, you couldn't ask for more. This is relentless.

It is also a complex recording which only reveals its true depth with repeated listens. The Latin and Greek subjects along with the sampled Shakespeare monologue explore classical themes directly and lyrically while avoiding the vapid posturing of many pseudo-intellectual metal elitists. There is even a nod to Bach's fugues buried within Nephilim's solo on "In the Face of the Absolute".

Along with a move away from the black metal sound there has been a deliberate improvement to the production also. Recorded in Poland at Hertz Studio, the result is a wide, crisp and extremely loud final mix. The kicks attack with a "click" rather than a "blat", and reinforce the audible bass. The separate guitar lines are spacious and never bleed into the vocal's territory. When things really kick off, there is some noticeable clipping, just to remind the listener that this is still an underground release, but otherwise the main impression is of a very clinical recording.

"Decrowning The Irenarch" is a bold step forward for Spearhead who are clearly intent on stepping up to the big leagues of death metal. This second album could quite easily be their ticket there. It is worthy of your attention.

(written for Blast!zine issue one:

Excellent martial-themed death metal - 95%

vorfeed, May 6th, 2009

This is the second album from Spearhead, a U.K. band playing black/death metal.

The production on this album is rather clear. The guitar tone is high and cutting, and the snarled, start-and-stop vocals have a touch of echo now and again. The bass is surprisingly audible, even when everything's blasting, which is a nice touch. The drumming on this record is a huge improvement over the last one -- the drums on this are simply overwhelming, a non-stop barrage packed with brilliant fills!

I haven't heard many martial-sounding metal albums better than this one -- these guys effortlessly out-Angelcorpse the last Angelcorpse record! The sheer variety and savagery of the riffing on offer is astounding. The vocals are also quite unique: the odd, harsh vocal delivery is the perfect complement to the guitars, and the occasional use of double-tracking makes them sound even better. The lyrics live up to their promise, too, providing fierce and thoughtful verses inspired by history, war, and philosophy. Beneath it all are Vortigern's incredible drum-work and tons of memorable, stirring guitar lines. I hear lots of Bolt Thrower in the solos, and there's more than a bit of old Morbid Angel in the rhythm guitars, but this record is powerfully original; between the unhinged vocals and equally astounding songwriting, Decrowning the Irenarch doesn't sound like anything I've heard before.

Fans of Revenge, Axis of Advance, Bolt Thrower, Angelcorpse, Sanguis Imperem, and the like should try this record; you will not be disappointed. Decrowning the Irenarch earns my highest recommendations.

Standout tracks: "Decrowning the Irenarch", "Road to Austerlitz", "Brotherhood of Arms"

Review by vorfeed:

"A true call to war against mediocre metal." - 100%

Pyovelin_Kutsu, December 16th, 2007

Rising from amidst a blighted crop of mediocre and uninspired U.K. death and black metal bands, Spearhead are proving to be a welcome contrast to the growing legions of sub par, bedroom based DARKTHRONE imitators and CRADLE OF FILTH wannabes by releasing this intelligent and highly polished slice of blackened death metal.

Apparently, moving away from their black metal beginnings, 'Decrowning the Irenarch' has more of an 'epic death metal' feel to it. The quality of the production and recording (courtesy of Hertz Studio of Poland) is a significant step up from the somewhat 'crusty' sound of their previous releases which, although it may have pleased some of the more 'necro' crowd, took some of the edge from the band's rather technical approach.

Vocally, frontman Barghest, is stronger than ever with a venomous and spiteful growl reminiscent of Dave Vincent (MORBID ANGEL) and Jeff Walker (CARCASS). His bass guitar is audible in the mix which is an added bonus too. Guitarists Nephilim and Invictus lay down relentless barrages of quality metal riffs with a new level of technical prowess which only serves to enhance the brutality and sonic violence the band have aimed to deliver since their beginning (with Nephilim adding some surprisingly exotic sounding leads along with blazing old-school solo work). On the subject of relentless barrages, I feel I should also mention Vortigern's drumming which maintains a breakneck pace yet never overrides or dominates (as so many blast-beaters often feel they have to) and serves admirably to propel each track along with a suitably warlike feel.

Onto the songs themselves, I feel there is no single track that stands out especially as the band have taken great care to keep a consistent level of quality throughout and create an album that is more than simply a collection of individual songs but an entity in itself. Another refreshing change is that while SPEARHEAD's many influences are made apparent throughout, nothing is simply a rip-off and it all bears SPEARHEAD's distinctive mark. You'll just have to listen to it for yourself.

Over all, 'Decrowning...' is definitely worth giving a spin if you like 'military grade' metal with powerful, epic atmospheres and blast beats aplenty; a true call to war against mediocre metal!