As the first decade of blackened death metal distortion by way of Kansas City, Missouri’s legendary Order From Chaos found the band peaking within a unique creative style but beaten harshly by slimy labels and opportunistic bullshit the important legendary black/death metal band wouldn’t record any new material beyond 1995. With each record prior seeing up to three year delays it’d appear the trio had learned every lesson possible on their way to cult status and the three bands that’d form from their dissolution were soon (or already) in the works before ‘An Ending Fire’ had been finished in 1995. Pete Helmkamp would be fast at work on Angelcorpse‘s demo and a now classic full-length had landed by the end of 1996. Chuck Keller had been working on an astrological themed solo black metal act Vulpecula since 1994 and he’d quickly shift his energy towards a thrash metal oriented project as it’d probably become clear that Order From Chaos was melting beneath the trio. Ares Kingdom was officially formed in 1996 with a demo featuring Keller on guitar, bass and vocals with his compatriot Mike Miller from (the yet to disband) Order From Chaos on drums released in 1997. At that point it’d seem that it was really just a matter of releasing ‘An Ending fire’ and moving on for the members of the band.
The expectation for many was that Ares Kingdom would be less of a departure from Order From Chaos and a continuation of sorts but, it was almost as severe of a flip in the opposite direction as seen with Angelcorpse. Alex Blume (ex-Nepenthe) would round out the trio on bass/vocals and become known for their moderately complex and semi-melodic death/thrash metal starting with the long-time-coming release of Ares Kingdom‘s debut ‘Return to Dust’ (2006). Vulpecula would be shelved around that same time and Ares Kingdom would begin to move towards a style of death/thrash metal heavily rooted in the traditions of classic United States heavy metal. For two more records and several releases some unfinished Vulpecula song ideas would lie dormant until Keller would rediscover them and decide to incorporate their core ideas into this fourth Ares Kingdom record. At this point it’d be important to familiarize yourself with what the band’s style would become as they moved from what was essentially a thrash metal Arghoslent towards a sound reminiscent of Deceased. Those old and rotten death metal instincts didn’t necessarily die back to when Keller‘d started Ares Kingdom but it was primarily an extreme thrash metal project in style. ‘By the Light of Their Destruction’ pulls in a heavy dose of the feral mutations that’d made ‘An Ending Fire’ such an exciting let-down as Order From Chaos dissolved immediately after but the record likewise revives the early semi-melodic spiritus of Ares Kingdom, making for what is likely their most considered and varied release to date.
That sense that Keller‘s songwriting sense would evolve drastically after the release of ‘The Unburiable Dead’ (2015) makes some sense as longtime second guitarist Doug Overbay would hit the eject button on his seat in the band that same year. A couple of years silence would follow until 2018 would find Ares Kingdom independently releasing four digital only compilation EPs that’d serve as a retrospective of the band from 1996-2015, apparently re-recorded (with some live tracks) as a trio. Here you’ll find one of the best introductions to the changes of the bands thrash-centric death metal sound as they’d evolve in the span of nearly two decades. They’re all like a buck or two each but, I’d say go for ‘Instruments of War’ (2019) EP if you’re not all that familiar with Ares Kingdom‘s discography. I won’t focus too much more on their past releases at this point because those EPs tell you enough and the full albums aren’t particularly comparable to this new one. A few songs still have some of that Deceased-like rip (“Burn, Antares (Scorpius Diadem)”) but ‘By the Light of Their Destruction’ is more violent than their past, more unearthly than most will expect and features what is undoubtedly the most brutal performance that we’ve seen from Miller since the late 90’s.
From the first thump of “The Hydra Void” the feral stink of ‘By the Light of Their Destruction’ was already steaming from my speakers. The production generally sounds live-in-studio without frills beyond a couple of extra guitar tracks and that bludgeoning horror produces a growling, screaming, drowning-underwater thrash influenced death metal album militant as it is intricate. As raw and clubbed with its own severed leg as the performances are the unmistakably alien finesse of Keller‘s guitar work and songwriting dominate the full listen. Any old fan of Order From Chaos will be more than happy with the raw rush of where Ares Kingdom have landed with this album and I’d suppose most fans of the band won’t shy away from this sound despite its hairier-than-thou approach. It does begin to stray far, far beyond that old Nocturnal Fear style of thrash towards the furor of groups like Slaughter Lord and early Pentacle. There is an 80’s death metal looseness to the full listen of ‘By the Light of Their Destruction” that creates a style somewhere between the call-and-response roars of Deceased, the crooked-blackened rip of Poison and the forceful sledgehammer of Death Strike. It is a storm of riff and drum-hammering mania defined quickly by brutal and seemingly unrepentant strokes of violence that couldn’t possibly be more redeeming as a stylistic choice in moving forward with Ares Kingdom.
‘By the Light of Their Destruction’ feels as if conjured by hatred and disgust, a stream of classic extreme metal obsessed fury from a mind relentlessly firing bitter distaste upon all potential victim. The nuclear thrash Ares Kingdom hurls downward so brutally extrudes as a barely contained and percussive beating upon the listener and that is the core purpose of the music that’ll be universally understood; Where my interest bends an ear of curiosity comes with the lyrics as Keller is notoriously a creative and compelling lyricist. Without a lyric sheet I’d found myself listening intently in trying to piece together the shout-and-roar of it all and would eventually resign to wait to see if the physical copy had a lyric sheet. The immediate value of the experience is in its attack and the major pull that kept me going back for further listening came from the insistent apocalyptic ruin of it all; That said, even a little bit of Order From Chaos resemblance was enough to pique my interest to begin with. It has become my favorite release from the band beyond their debut and one of my favorite releases of the first half of 2019. Very highly recommended. For preview I’d recommend “Burn, Antares (Scorpius Diadem)” and “Eighteen Degrees Beneath” for a first impression and then point towards “The Hydra Void” and “Iconologia” as my personal favorite tracks.
Rip from them salvation. 4.5/5.0
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