Polish death metal band Kingdom took roughly a decade to hit their stride beyond brutal beginnings in 2003 but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Instead it seems the slow rise to solidarity came from its side-project status, as drummer SLW would more or less leave his long-term post in death metal band Centurion around the same time Kingdom picked up and broke through with their second full-length ‘Morbid Priest of Supreme Blasphemy’ (2013). This would be the catalyst in terms of solidifying their signature ‘everyman’ death metal sound with nicely polished, but still ‘old school’ production. That point in time and space might’ve been marked by heavy Bolt Thrower influences but the actual takeaway when looking back upon the band’s discography is a first primal point of seriousness for Kingdom. With the core trio of the line-up secured around 2015 the third full-length ‘Sepulchral Psalms from the Abyss of Torment’ (2016) found Kingdom a true den of iniquity in joining Godz ov War Productions, working with producer Mateu-Sz, and beginning to lean into atmospheric, progressive, and black metal influences that’d help the bands sound begin to stand out beyond their puritanical old school ways. I see this progression as balanced and continuous from that point. To remain die-hard in the same way a group like Throneum is but erecting a methodology that is open to the expansion of newer ideas in death metal beyond 1993. ‘Rotting Carcass Arise Upon the Burial Mound’ is the third extension of that method since 2016 and it is difficult to see the horizon from the perceived peak. That is to say that a terminal velocity is long achieved where it becomes hard to tell if the trajectory of growth is stagnant and solidified or firing off hotly forth as ever.
Cluttered brutality, angered in menace, spacious within experimentation, and ever-tensile in its versatile strengths the machine of Kingdom is immediate and ruthless today in reaching beyond the already crazed peak of ‘Putrescent Remains of the Dead Ground’ (2018). The brutally shifting sands of Of Feather and Bone, the blackened slithering of Taphos and the ambitious old school technical crunch of Undersave (or Totten Korps) provide examples of modern death metal with ‘classic’ ambitions that Kingdom also approach on this latest record. There is a fluidity therein that groups like The Chasm brought to death metal decades ago that also translates into Kingdom‘s sound but they’re working with a heavier hammer a la Denial and unafraid to throw in some dissonance and technicality that’ll recall the Carcass-esque early Finnish death metal scene (see: “Burial Mound”) and the crunch of early Immolation. Whatever characteristics you might divine from closer listening they’ll undoubtedly be a crossing of old and new streams within pure death metal and if my own description and comparison could serve as any indication, the listening experience covers a lot of stylistic ground in quick succession. The reach of the album is ambitious enough that you might not even notice their cover of Samael‘s “Baphomet’s Throne” as it rounds out the experience while also providing a crooked groove that is entirely fitting for the vibe of the record.
Kingdom have long explored the realms of the dark in terms of fascination with necromancy, possession, and dark romanticism recalling vague horrors. This time they’re pushing for greater darkness while treading territory you’d expect from this sort of death metal in description of violent necromancy, a sort of shift from the previous album which had focused so often on the finality of death and mortality itself as a damned thing. Lyrics aren’t the most important thing in this sort of death metal, as they’re not often taken seriously, but I enjoy this sort of simple but striking sort of prose. What is without a doubt taken seriously in construction of this album is the turn-on-a-dime moments that redirect the flow of ‘Rotting Carcass Arise Upon the Burial Mound’ and continue to render Kingdom somewhat distinct in their realm. “Dark Light Rising” immediately sets a tone of things to come but the first and most pronounced shift comes with the grinding basslines that kick off “Zatracony w Obłędzie”, this is where it becomes most clear that this is not just a typical ‘new old school’ death metal record. Deeper still into the album “Otchłań Zapomnienia” revives that prominent dissonance for what I’d consider a crossing into Side B of the full listening experience where the tone of the record becomes increasingly unpredictable but not erratic. “Devourer of Light” smartly kicks up the brutality at the end of the somewhat short record (32 minutes) and fires up to a more brutal, galloping pace and heaviness that reminded me of early Drawn and Quartered. Not only is this a great way to finish off the original material on the recording but it provides a great shot of energy into the otherwise pensive second half of the album.
If you’ve been out of the loop with this band or have no idea who they are to begin with it becomes hard to discern which of their last three albums is most worthy as an introduction. In some ways ‘Rotting Carcass Arise Upon the Burial Mound’ is a superior iteration upon the achievements of ‘Putrescent Remains of the Dead Ground’ as it provides a greater feeling of depth and variation without being too entirely different. Both are equally valid as an introduction to the band and their sound, each includes a solid cover of an important black metal band, and the choice is only clear when placing the two records in succession and listening to those atmospheric, mood-shifting pieces I’d mentioned previous. Admittedly you could start anywhere within Kingdom‘s discography and be generally pleased as a death metal fan but so far I’d say ‘Rotting Carcass Arise Upon the Burial Mound’ is a new point of significance for the band. Highly recommended. For preview I’d suggest my personal favorite tracks “Cadaver Purgatory” and “Burial Mound” but don’t pass up the album without hearing “Dark Light Rising” and “Zatracony w Obłędzie” back to back.
Ripped from flesh and soul. 4.0/5.0
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