But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. […] Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.King James Bible, Jude 1:10-13

Wherein the author’s primeval contradiction suggests the reader believe only what is written by the hand of ‘God’, inking it in his own handwriting. — Denouncing Gnostics alongside all manner of apostate, likening those who live by their own instincts to beasts, and using a reference to plague-stricken civilization to illustrate the high susceptibility to corruption which all leadership suffers the pitch-shifted verse from the King James version of the Epistle of Jude which kicks off Richmond, Virginia-based nuclear bestial black/death metal duo Antichrist Siege Machine‘s second full-length album presents us with a fantasy of damnation directed at all manner of non-believers within a community, scalable to kingdom of any imaginable size. It isn’t most punitive example of puritanical Christian supremacy reinforced by examples of disastrous Israeli history in the auld rag but it does bite deep within the sweetly rotten core of intolerance unanimously fostered by monotheism. For our purposes it is these raging seas and wandering stars of damnatory eternal darkness that supply ‘Purification Blade‘ with the strength and conviction to deliver eleven purposeful strikes of groove-ridden, beastly instinct.

The second Antichrist Siege Machine album is not likely going to surprise the greater pool of ‘ready existing fans who’d already aligned with their first album (‘Schism Perpetration‘, 2019) in appreciation of one of the more exciting death-leaning “war metal” extremes of today. This tag works well enough, and their attack still lands like a nuclear cyclone with each hit, but from my perspective musicians S. B. (Left Cross, Unsacred) and R. Z. (Disevered) have always expressed as a bestial (read: unaligned) death metal band, influenced by the extremes that’d developed immediately following the initial stillborn hellions of extreme metal. Though it will seem like a pointless distinction at face value this exclusion of black metal idealism matters quite a bit when we consider the major spectacle and characteristic forms this band has brought since forming in 2016 — An impressive handle upon the core grooves of death metal affixed in striking unison with staggered yet ceaselessly brutal percussive forms. The way I hear it, there is a bit more Proclamation and Black Witchery in their bloody rhythms than there is any direct similarity with the usual suspects in popular war metal; This means anyone with a fondness for Teitanblood‘s ‘Death’ or anything from Abysmal Lord should find the Antichrist Siege Machine discography impressive.

Same ole, same ole then? Not necessarily, no. The best parts of ‘Schism Perpetration’ for my own taste were those that’d practically slowed time as they transitioned between crust-blasted and low-tuned grinding to mid-paced jogging blasts, all arisen naturally through momentum; There was always a riff around the corner and at ~28 minutes there was no sign of Antichrist Siege Machine killing time. This is still the basal idealism-in-action that drives the band on ‘Purification Blade’ but they’ve managed a half hour follow-up which paces itself more evenly between its two halves and presents a concerted effort to arrive upon this “death metal groove” even more naturally rather than relying on dropping in and out of phase by predictable meter changes. If you were a fan of the chunkier tracks on their 2020 EP ‘Filth of the World‘ then the whole of ‘Purifying Blade’ should impress. There is no defaulting back to a pole position of comfort on this brutal sluice, only pressing forward. The result is simpler than my convoluted delineation suggests: There are more riffs and they are even better.

So, the psyche-wracking morbid consistency of bestial death metal and preferential discussion of singular pieces don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand but in this case the two promotional tracks selected in presentation of ‘Purifying Blade’ do a fine enough job of illustrating smaller details that become outsized when the hallucinatory temple-stabbing geist of the album finally appears in mind. The first piece presented, “Victorious Legions of Satan“, isn’t the most ear-catching song on the full listen but it does allow the greater oeuvre of the band to shine between signature blast pace, the brief hardcore punches around ~1:53 minutes in, and before you know it the otherwise droning seance of it all is over. This should suggest the easy, fairly decongested nature of these compositions which aren’t going out of their way to be abrasive per the usual underground war metal act. The second preview track/music video “Unleashed Hostility” is perhaps the activated ‘wall of horror’ side of Antichrist Siege Machine most will recognize, at least once we’re beyond the opening, yet I’d felt these quick changes between the 4-5 riffs on offer were nothing short of sophisticated beyond expectation. Compare this with the somewhat similarly phrased “Prime Mover” from ‘Schism Perpetration’ and the abysm they’ve traversed between records becomes more vast and the precision of ‘Purifying Blade’ all the more distinct in their greater discography.

Though the slap of the drums remains the signature of the band (and I guess the justification of comparisons to Proclamation earlier) we’re still treated plenty of hardcore/crust kicks (“Chaos Insignia”) and mid-paced death metal riff breaks (“Defiled in Iniquity”) which serve keep things restless, always attacking the path forward. There are plenty of memorable blips on the radar as we transgress ‘Purifying Blade’ yet the longest and deepest cut on the album, “Antichrist Siege Machine”, is of course where I’d most often found myself fixated when reflecting upon each full listen of the album. From my own perspective an eponymous song on a second album is a serious statement of intent or, a way of presenting the listener with an ideal to build upon and in this case it manages to be a strongest cumulative statement on ‘Purifying Blade’ which experiments with some normative death metal riff and rhythms. As we jump directly into closer “The Inevitable Penalty” the obvious comes into greater focus: Is there only one or two brief lead guitar moments on the whole album? Much as I’d taken Antichrist Siege Machine seriously up the point of this revelation this lack of leads only became more glaring as I continued to blaze through this album countless times. Give me a divebomb or even some of those wobbly ‘Oath of the Black Blood’ scribbled out solos otherwise, it just has zero chance of lasting on my shelf otherwise. So, we’re here for the attack, the insidious death grooves, the still-solid (but sparingly used) hardcore crust/influences, the curved cut of their rhythms, the absolutely spectacular drumming from S. B. and at the end of the day these traits alone are worthy of a moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Purifying Blade
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records [CD, LP]
Stygian Black Hand [CS]
RELEASE DATE:October 8th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Black/Death Metal,
Bestial Death Metal

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