Though acts of war, and their inherent heroic value, are often overblown within corrupt propaganda or with ‘patriotic’ respect for the dead, one must eventually concede that combat and warfare for ‘the greater good’ reflects positively upon any Christ dominated culture. The selfless act of risking death for the sake of others is perhaps the only honorable death by the hand of man that exists for a peon who is firmly nailed under the thumb of the Martyr’s church. When wars rage and society’s heroes commit genocide culturally deemed worthy of celebrating so rages the war at home where murder rates consistently climb in times of chaos and combat abroad. The true horrors come when the war is over and the murderer must piece himself back together. In the space of fifty days a man regularly engaged in combat can go from resourceful to maniacal and if not treated by a psychiatrist he has great potential to reach a vegetative trauma-induced psychosis. Psychologists suggest that veterans pulled from combat more than thirty days after crossing the threshold of our (culturally ingrained) resistance to kill other humans will undoubtedly suffer a myriad of mental issues for the remainder of their lives. This describes exactly the point at which the average music fan inducts into the extreme metal spectrum. One can exist with moderate damage and functional taste for only so long until they ‘break’ and crumble into a vegetative state where only high concept art or savage killing can sate their taste. Death metal fanaticism exists so prevalenty in today’s modern reality because the greater consciousness of humanity now resides on a greater plane of obsession with death and chaos with acknowledgement of the coming end of human existence.
No path primes the blood red road towards death than war and with the cessation of south England based black metal projects Yersinia Pestis and Archaicus formed a union aimed at deeper war and death metal focus by name of Spearhead. Through some obsession with the brutality of early 2000’s Polish death metal and the diabolical scraping of groups such as Angelcorpse and Impiety came ‘Deathless Steel Command’ (2005), a brutal sledging of clattering snare mutiny and rasping 90’s black metal cadence. Unbridled and carelessly violent, the debut from Spearhead appears mediocre and slightly dated by its production today but it nonetheless signaled the way forward unto Hertz Studio for the band’s first notable entry with ‘Decrowning the Irenarch’ (2007). Most importantly the second full-length marked the entrance of rhythm guitarist Invictus who began to develop more of a signature approach for Spearhead‘s riffcraft. Not only did his precision work match that of ambitious rippers like Nox/Centurian guitarist Rob Oorthuis but Invictus brought along some understanding of Bolt Thrower-esque melody and movement. The approach of the band has not groomed itself wildly beyond 2007 in terms of structure or influence but with ‘Pacifism of Cowardice’ comes a markedly different approach to drum patterns.
If ‘Decrowning the Irenarch’ was the point of entry for Spearhead then ‘Theomachia’ (2011) was an aggressive perfection of those developing constants. With drummer Vortigern out to focus on Orpheus (and eventually Lychgate) the band would enlist session drummer Torturer who is best known for his work within the German black metal scene with Mor Dagor as well as session work for late 00’s Belphegor releases. The faster hammer of his drum work intensified the sort of Angelcorpse, Marduk and Azarath inspired sound driving ‘Theomachia’ yet the superficial hordes would insist that Bolt Thrower was the major driver of Spearhead‘s sound. This record also confirmed the general layout of any release from the band with a short intro, an interlude at the middle point, and a track entitled “Aftermath” finishing the experience; It also served as one of my favorite releases from 2011 near the top of the list thanks to its high tension atmosphere and action as a proper replacement for what was then the true death of both Angelcorpse and Nox.
Beyond post-2011 touring there was only silence from the band until the project was restaffed aroun 2014 with Throne of Nails‘ drummer Typhon (aka Mark Smith) as well as lead guitarist Praetorian (aka Kevin Dixon) who came from an equally underrated history with Diamanthian. Now appears a different war machine from Spearhead‘s hanger that is immediately less synthetic and drained of the anxietous brutality that drove earlier releases. The overwhelming Polish death metal production ethos now rests in the past as Typhon employs a reasonable and adept slap of the drum that allows the guitars and vocal performances their leadership role while still offering an impressive thrust. Beyond the modified drum presence so comes an enlightening set of riffs that clarify Spearhead‘s inspirations towards the classic first decade of Vader as well Angelcorpse with frantically paced swerving attacks that jettison the excess posturing from ‘De Profundis’ and inject the hyper-Morbid Angel ruination of ‘Exterminate’. More succinctly, they’ve not messed with their good thing in the silent interim.
With the end of Centurian in 2015 there are few bands left attempting this style of death metal and while the blackened aspects of Spearhead‘s music mark their own niche it is comforting to return to a style that appears dead in the face of atmospherically obsessed black/death metal projects that’ve lost the brutal spirit of early 2000’s extreme metal. If you’ve no true love for that era of death metal then it is at least worth noting that ‘Pacifism is Cowardice’ infuses a fair amount of ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’-esque guitar techniques (see: “Degeneration Genocide”) and some death-thrashing breaks and divebombing wails (see: “The Elysian Ideal”) in a successful attempt at breaking up the hammered nature of several song structures; You’ll hear the long dead spirit of Vader more often than not but, Spearhead are fully recognizable here with regard to the rest of their discography.
My own listening experience came with great excitement and then quickly moved towards analysis. This came due to the familiar sound and approach from the band which offers only moderate replay value of the album for my own tastes. While songs like “Wolves of the Krypteia, We” and “Aion (Two Keys and a Lion’s Face)” offer something new and interesting they are set next to tracks such as “Ajativada” which appear fairly rote ‘ramming speed’ numbers that resemble (but don’t come up to par with) similar material, Nox‘s classic ‘Ixaxaar’, for example. Were the album devoid of these energetic lulls I would consider it among the very best of the year but because I felt I’d worn out its electrical charge between the tenth and fifteenth listen I am only giving the latest Spearhead album a moderately high recommendation. Though I am thankful and excited for the return of the band after seven years there is still room to improve and expand within their wheelhouse yet what cannot be considered perfection still holds great value.
Seized by the serpent’s fang. 4.0/5.0
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