This band’s second LP is the fruit of some considerable labor. Almighty Arcanum is the culmination of ten years’ toil in the Australian underground, hopefully yielding some recognition as well. Denouncement Pyre‘s conscripts have found the time and inspiration to forge an excellent record, their involvement in such vibrant Australian acts as Nocturnal Graves and Order of Orias notwithstanding. In my moments of inadvertent positive stereotyping, I picture Australians as being entirely committed to their craft, unhindered by the socioeconomic pressures and even reveling in the adversity of it all. In evolving from 2010′s World Cremation these Melbourne natives haven’t lost any of their nefarious vibes but have instead composed the best riffing of their young careers, given the guitars a more prominent role in the mix, and improved the production to produce the best release I’ve heard so far this year.
The title tracks gallops forth with the gritty Celtic Frostian bluster that often defines these proto extreme metal hordes but, though the riffs aren’t cutting edge in any sense, they are executed more precisely than ever. Some tasty trade off leads close out the track as seems to be the case with the strongest tracks on the album. Then there are tracks like “He Who Conquers All” and “Circle of Serpents”, which evoke an unmistakably frigid second wave black metal sound. Though you can’t give them credit for the spike in riff quality, the band’s all new rhythm section shines brightly here as the pieces are constructed with a greater sense of purpose than anything found on World Cremation. The only complaints here are a somewhat flat production and two pointless intro tracks. To be fair, Almighty Arcanum is nicely rough and louder than many black/death hybrid records you’ll hear but it would benefit greatly from a louder, grittier mix with boosted lead guitars, thus preserving the charm of a roughneck production and still creating an imposing presence.
The combined emphasis on a death/thrash compositional ambition and hellish black/war metal vibes recalls Blasphemophager, both early and later Satyricon, Sadistic Intent (RIP?) and thrashier bands like Desaster and Destroyer 666. Though another may hear five entirely different things, it’s only because vying to combine these various tints of extreme metal is the ethos of many bands on the Hells Headbangers roster. Where Denouncement Pyre stands out is, instead of welding the seams by blurring the riffs and transitions –this sometimes results in a mess and nothing more– they’re genuinely moving towards fusing their influences through the construct of layered composition. Contrary to prevailing belief in the underground, layered riffs are actually moar grim! Almighty Arcanum is a cyclone of vicious riffs and lead bursts but its songwriting is what makes it a major stepping stone.
Out January 22nd on Hells Headbangers.
Stream the whole album over at Decibel.