SPELLFORGER – Upholders of Evil (2021)REVIEW

Born from fiery, off the cuff inspiration and channeling the exacting muscle memory of ancient evil speed metal mania West Javanese blackened death-thrashers Spellforger are a serious force right out of the gates on this, their debut EP ‘Upholders of Evil‘. Conjured as one and soon culling prime movers from within the regional Indonesian black metal scene, the heart of this band stretches between multi-generational black/thrash metal traditions naming key actors from the mid-80’s through the best of the 2010’s in summation of their core inspiration. Their goal is of ‘old school’ heavy metal tradition beyond trend, an attempt to raise the first pillar and inspire future generations to look to the past for the way forward, rather than relying upon gimmickry and false hype for characterization. In this sense ‘Upholders of Evil’ isn’t aiming for pure originality but the right attitude, energy, and attack. They’ve pretty much nailed it.

Heavy metal is at its best as a reaction, a defiance to norms and the loss of any spirited action. Of course we could drive ourselves off a cliff considering the cyclic nature of trends and their predictable consequences but in the case of Spellforger we have to consider what kind of metal prevails most often in their Bandung area scenes and why this EP arrives so spirited in the name of true metal. Formed by Middernacht nearby the start of 2020 with the lineup completed soon after the inherent reaction seems to be in defiance of the slamming brutal death metal and deathcore prevalence in their region. There is no denying Indonesia has been a hotbed for brutal death over the last twenty years but this wasn’t necessarily a replacement for a thriving scene prior; Before that there were some notable black and thrash metal bands out of Jakarta and the nearest scene for the style Spellforger sport would’ve been Malaysia or Singapore, at least in terms of relics that have survived. So, when I suggest the roots of their style emerge within the eldest 80’s black thrash traditions and by way of modern torchbearers these days it’d point towards the heaviest concentrations throughout Scandinavia, which are generally rooted in early German satanic speed metal precision and Brazilian raw thrash metal attack. Condor, Evoke, Nekromantheon, et al., are the right stuff by comparison though I’d say Spellforger are occasionally reminiscent of modern Chilean blackened death/thrashers due to heavier death metal influences on certain songs. What do they do to stand out on a global scale?

Nada. The magick here is in the attack, the hall-storming speed metal drumming, the thrashing-mad abandon of the guitar work, and their shrieking enthusiasm. I wouldn’t recommend ‘Upholders of Evil’ for its innovative traits but for its exacting grasp of evil thrash metal, their goal is right there in the title. They’re upholding the old standards and keeping heavy metal feral and evil in the best tradition and that is admirable as Hell in my book. They’ve got riffs, they’re on fire throughout these ~22 minutes and none of it feels too “on the nose” retro referential. The right energy and attitude is everything for this sort of music and these guys are doing it right with polished and razor sharp results from the start. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (79/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Upholders of Evil
LABEL(S):Personal Records
RELEASE DATE:April 2nd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black/Thrash Metal,
Blackened Death/Thrash Metal

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