MOLTEN CHAINS – Torment Enshrined (2020)REVIEW

Here lies a wretched corpse of wretched soul bereft: Seek not my name: a plague consume you wicked caitiffs left!” — An engraved scathing from Timon the most generous knave of Athens and his spiteful self-written epitaph invoke little pity for the (previously) wealthy fool yet these events are truly tragic. This likely co-authored “problem play” from Shakespeare lends itself to high societal tension best when buried deepest in luxurious banquets and generosity, the realm of wealth and philanthropy where a good portion of the bodies are yet hangers-on, opportunists willing to bleed a fool no matter how well-meaning. The poet, the painter and the writer are drooling dogs at the table but they are not the worst sort of untrained hound in any society; Those that’d by nature growl when the bag of treats dries up, the greed-stricken lords who sit ever hungered atop their wealth ’til the ceiling bursts. Liquidating his assets as gifts and tribute to friendship and fealty, even going as far as buying artisanal goods at a too-high price and handing them away for free in the same night, Timon is soon bound for the rails. Surely life experience can direct us to the second and third acts as his wealth dries up and the snarling begins, our vulnerable dolt a seeming child amongst the wolves. A lonesome misanthrope arisen, our protagonist’s first taste of revenge upon acquaintances turned enemies is weakly lain before eviction from his palatial home. He’d curse the city walls, renounce society, fashion a cave of subsistence in the hills, and plot the destruction of Athens henceforth. This is parable enough for the well-meaning, optimistic lives we live until these beasts come nipping and circling for their share, poisoning fair souls with a potentially terminal rage. Without compliance most face some measure of enslavement if they would deny this inevitable unjust fleecing. Timon is not an ascetic by choice, and there is no irony in his discovering a wealth of gold in this hidden cave and spending it all on bounties and revenge just before he’d died himself — Mediocre men do not learn lessons, do not change course, but rather we repeat the inanities that hold us back in plain view of cyclical self-defeat. In fact there is no satisfying parable here, any statement would simply perpetuate the dharmic wheel’s expression all the same. We can only assume great men learn, change course, and never lose equal vision for success and failure. This penchant for solidifying decisions must likewise apply to the best heavy metal acts, not the most popular but the actual important artists who achieve themselves, an actualization still willing to pull from the outside world for color and stature. Vienna, Austria based heavy metal duo Molten Chains are undoubtedly exemplar of greatness under this definition as they achieve their righteously idiosyncratic second full-length album ‘Torment Enshrined’. Independent, driven, unique, and influenced by myriad forms old and new there are few heavy metal bands today that manage handicraft as serious and undisturbed by commercialism as this and not a single one with as solid a taste in riffs.

New to the Vienna area and looking to start a traditional heavy metal band circa 2017 Australia-borne guitarist, bassist and vocalist Brenton Weir (Semetary) would gather a trio of folks together for the Mark I line-up of Molten Chains quickly releasing a formative yet still impressive demo tape (‘Demo MMXVIII‘, 2018) before going to work writing a debut album (‘Into the Antechamber Below‘, 2019) with a new line-up. That first album would be my introduction to the band after receiving a promo and tossing a short review into a column where I first pointed to one of Weir’s many talents: Riffs. Truth be told I didn’t do the record as much justice as I would have liked in hindsight. You could certainly pick up that first album and read it as very do-it-yourself underground heavy metal in the works with influences from Agent Steel, Apocrypha, Fates Warning and that sweet spot where 80’s power metal meets the somewhat progressive nature of speed/thrash metal. This is apt enough a comparison on cursory preview and maybe a full listen or two but there was some perspective lacking on my part. The revelation in mind is that Molten Chains are essentially traditional heavy metal in style but with all of the high-rate evolutionary riff expression of classic death/thrash metal which (more specifically) takes stock in the clever hooks of early progressive death metal, modern black metal and technical thrash metal; This is all delivered via an epic heavy/power-thrashing heavy metal voicing that is one hundred percent uniquely theirs. There are few bands doing this with any merit on the extreme metal side, one fine example being Sacral Night on their ‘Ancient Remains‘ album, but Molten Chains remain an incredible singularity in my book. On that first album some of these ambitions were blurred quite a bit by the lower budget gig and well, for the sake of learning while doing. The key song to take away from that first LP is “Reverence Knifed” as the most clear indication of the path forward unto most lucid ‘epic’ and flowing event that is ‘Torment Enshrined’. As you will discover there is such an incredible amount of detail put into each of the six pieces on this new album that even the longest analysis I could possibly publish might not fully drag enough nuance from this balance of straight forward true heavy metal voicing and rabid blackened death/thrash influenced arrangements.

From the moment the band released the first single, “Revenge Unbound“, it was clear this Mark III line-up for a second album featuring Weir performing all but the drums (which come via drummer Michi) is the first truly remarkable leap in the conception of the band, arriving upon a sound and approach that is still gloriously unique within the realm of traditional heavy metal but cleaning up the meter of their hits and the render of the final product to higher professional standards. My old thrash-head ways would initially find me comparing certain pieces and vocal arrangements to those of Satan‘s ‘Suspended Sentence’, Drifter‘s ‘Nowhere to Hide’ for energetic and complex riffing, Trial‘s ‘The Primordial Temple’, later Deathrow (Germany) and ‘By Inheritance’ for good measure. Am I just naming a few of my favorite albums out of habit, or does this band actually pull off a seamless blend of technical and classic heavy metal driven rhythms within a much more aggressive/progressive dichotomy? Probably a bit of both but you’ve gotten the idea that these pieces are evocative of classic 80’s heavy/thrash metal riffing at its peak. “Revenge Unbound” shouldn’t speak to retro heavy metal too squarely, though, as this song is headily dominated by the spiraling dissonant reap of black metal guitar techniques, which slide and slash throughout the heavier blasted sections of the song. Nothing is absolute or concrete in this sense, all style and inflection is capably modulated to fit the narrative of the seven minute epic thrashing pieces and well, sub-genre specifics be damned at some point. Weir‘s vocals primarily stick to his well-worded clean-sung delivery (which is already uniquely expressive) but this time around he is even more front and center, this allows us to hear most clearly the quick rasps into black and death metal used for emphasis as well as his sharp and confident power-thrash centric vocal arrangements. Album opener “Habitual Sufferance” storms forth with a blazing minute of introductory speed metal riffing before the vocals snarl in, offering the cleverness of Pariah‘s two late 80’s thrash records albeit with a blackened vocal edge, scale-hopping riffs and a drum performance that offers a staggeringly precise root for their collective impassioned aggression. This momentum heavy “locked in” feeling sets in as this first song plays, we’re in and “for a ride.”

“Weaponised” is not only the song that’d first officially piqued my ear with some ‘Suspended Semblance’ style riffing but the piece where I believe most folks will begin to feel like this multi-faceted approach to traditional heavy metal has officially upheld three consecutive songs with some seriously original merit. Granted I might be the exact right target for ‘Torment Enshrined’ considering I uphold equally strong love for both extreme and traditional heavy metal but that wouldn’t be enough if these songs weren’t so well written; Each of the six songs here manages to be brutally memorable and engaging, pieces that stand tall after nearly a hundred listens. Side B pulls back into some of the more direct black metal influenced guitar work on the album with the second single on the album, “Blackness and Silence”, and I think the first time I heard this song I’d gotten a very deep mental handshake from what is essentially a modern-but-antiquarian vision of what ‘No More Color’ was doing back in 1989. The grand finale, “Citizen”, is the song that’d inspired the long rant about Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens on my part, even if the actual lyrical subject matter is likely doubly intense this sense of disillusion with society accompanying the early Solitude Aeturnus influenced song would be the nail in the coffin on my part — I have been completely obsessed with ‘Torment Enshrined’ from the moment I’d begin to actively listen to it because I so rarely land upon the luck of find a record that so squarely clobbers the kind of metal I’d like to hear in 2020 out of the park and gives me something entirely unexpected to be floored by. It isn’t a high budget corporate heavy metal record, there is no rabid fanbase to conjoin with, this mastery Molten Chains presents snares all thoughts with its resolve to fold “the future” in with the storied past of classic heavy metal forms and succeeds without godawful trends or dryly obvious influences. Is it the perfect record? In my own forever overbooked world of constant music listening there hasn’t been a single record to so consistently break me away from my daily grind, to sit and soak the awe of its inventions. One more listen tends to mean 4-5 full spins and the ~33 minute length of the album allows it to be fully approachable from any angle. Without any hyperbole intended, I have been obssessed with ‘Torment Enshrined’ for months and it will more than likely be the highest general recommendation of the year. This, this thrashing array of malevolent jogging heavy metal, I want an army of it. Highest recommendation.

Highest recommendation (100/100)

Rating: 10 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:MOLTEN CHAINS
TITLE:Torment Enshrined
TYPE:LP
LABEL(S):Self-Released [Digital, Vinyl]
Alone Records [CD]
RELEASE DATE:December 4th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Heavy Metal,
Blackened Heavy Metal,
Power/Thrash Metal

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