MOLTEN CHAINS – Orisons of Vengeance (2022)REVIEW

With a braided set of carbonized bones darkly crowning their overflow’n thoughts, an indulged romanticist’s gazing-upward leer signifies sacrificial release of soul and proclivities to a depraved creator by unspeakable means. Melancholic and fragile with sateen grey skin, only poisonous eustress wills the altered mind in exploit of their inner laboratorium mortis, concocting shadowy shellac-slicked portraits of calculated retaliation. Three daggers rise in the hands of third-reborn Vienna, Austria-based prog-thrashing, extremophilic epic heavy metal trio Molten Chains, their third album twisting deeper within sinuous illustration far beyond the norm, a most unique brew of cult extremism and ‘epic’ tradition. Each rendering on ‘Orisons of Vengeance‘ offers the same immortal smirk wrenching the faces of their canvas’ various subjects, capturing the sadist at their moment of highest satiation, wherein the aura of the divine torturer snuffs out victim (after victim) to the count of six and in doing so dares the polis, the moirai, even Death himself to respond in kind.

Also, riffs. — Formed in 2017 Molten Chains‘ taste in late 80’s progressive thrash metal, extreme metal, classic doom metal and traditional heavy metal all speak loudly through the band’s intensely expressive, poetic delivery. In fact it’ll be difficult to pin any exacting comparisons for sound and style onto their battle vests due to the unique vision and voice of Australian-borne guitarist/vocalist Brenton Weir (Sematary) a fellow whom shirks the dry compartmentalization of sub-genres most linear-thinking heavy metal fans are all too directed by. Their greater evolution has been a case of do-it-yourself within reason, figuring-out as they go sort of deal with various line-ups straying towards a late 80’s prog-thrashing and romanticist ‘epic’ doom/heavy sound beyond their first demo (‘Demo MMXVIII‘, 2018) and full-length (‘In the Antechamber Below‘, 2019) both of which’d featured a demented brand of heavy metal most often compared to groups like Demon Bitch, Satan’s Host and Cauchemar. From my point of view it’d been a sort of death-thrasher level of detail and energy applied to traditional heavy metal that’d made the band something special, an classic underground sensibility made haunting on a different level.

Of course my enthused review for Molten Chains‘ second album ‘Torment Enshrined‘ (2020), placement of the album at #7 on my 100 Best Albums of 2020 list, and an interview with the band on the first issue of Mystification Zine should already have indicated that I am a huge fan of their work and my thoughts do not stray wildly here a year and a half later. That second record stood so tall with its deranged, melodramatic take on a fusion of progressive thrash, doom and black metal influenced rhythms that it still presents a sort of unbeatable standard in my mind, perhaps because they’d made such good use of its modest recording budget with a raw yet highly detailed sound (via Psychotic WaltzDevon Graves). There’ll be no reason to speak any less highly of ‘Orisons of Vengeance‘ though it is less ‘over the top’ overall. Molten Chains continue to burst at the seams with inspiration as they continue to innovate atop prime-era thrash metal’s movement with a modern-yet-classicist sense of the avant-garde, hence why it’ll be difficult to really poke holes in a record which refines the already great ideas behind ‘Torment Enshrined‘ rather than rethinking and reconsidering their already boundless angling upon tradition.

In the process of refinement and without the ability to fully road test their previous album Molten Chains have doubled down on finagling the best version of their current self, adding a second guitarist in Serbian fellowe Graf Gyula and tasked Thomas Taube (Five Lakes Studios) with engineering and rendering the album. Though they’d always written for two guitars much of this album appears to direct its resonance to the realism of their live capability, there aren’t a thousand guitar layers and six parts rolling out at all times, making for a very direct ‘heavy metal’ sort of record in spirit. This gives some considerable focus upon the arrangements and shrinks the sort of ‘old school’ thrash-chasmic sound of ‘Torment Enshrined‘ to something more present and immediate in its engagement, propping Weir‘s vocals in their central place with little accoutrement as he reigns in some of the more expressive, detailed parts of his performances. The rhythm section is quite a bit heavier with the bass guitar tone set about seven feet in the air, hovering above the guitar/vocal central force of the record and the drums quite low n’ loud. If that all sounds a bit hard to visualize, again, consider the best of ’88-’91 power-thrash but, remastered with a modern ear for bass definition. The sound design here is far cleaner than anything they’ve done in the past yet they’ve kept it simple and direct enough that none of their fine guitar work, fastidiously penned lyrics, or larger personae are lost to the senses of the listener.

In terms of the guitar work these aren’t impossibly technical pieces at face value yet fans of avant-thrashers Mekong Delta, the blackened/trad metal side of Hammers of Misfortune, the originally speed-metallic side of early Solitude Aeturnus and much more will ultimately find an extreme metal informed progressive thrash metal album here in slow reveal. This time around it is an easier ride that even more subtly incorporates those black/death techniques into their overall unique style. Again, I think it is worth taking a moment to appreciate that the boundaries listeners use to compartmentalize different norms of metal sub-genre are shattered herein, this is not a record for linear-thinking goons whom have a thousand nit-picking hang-ups in drawing lines between extreme, extreme traditional, traditional, etc. Of course if we are to gauge an album’s demographic by whom might be inspired to pick up a guitar after hearing ‘Orisons of Vengeance‘, well, weirdo thrashers by and large.

Can’t stress enough that we are getting a follow-up to ‘Torment Enshrined‘ here in terms of composition, this much’ll be evident out the gates with the blackened storming-up of opener “Hand of God” and the mayhemic dramatism of eight minute death-ranting signature piece “Bedevilled by Sorrow” which follows. The sort of ‘Rust in Peace‘-meets-‘Life Beyond‘ rhythmic muscle memory of the latter song is somewhat overshadowed by the dramatic vocal characterizations throughout its three-act structure yet Molten Chains have clearly built something of foundational value beyond the still feeling-it-out notion of past recordings. There are many hints along the tumultuous pathway of ‘Orisons of Vengeance‘ that signal a now most comfortable skin for the band gathering its iron-rich scale. As we reach the midpoint of the full listen lead single “Black Mantle” and Side B kicker “Communion” set us in the midst of where Weir shines most, in the thick of developing a narrative of many dramatically swerving turns which give some major focus to varietal vocal expression and technical rhythm guitar action. Though I don’t want to overshadow the many phases of the self that “Martyrdom” deploys, this final piece stuck in mind as Molten Chains‘ more direct brush with epic doom/heavy metal (~5:30 minutes and beyond) wherein they’ve finally found a spot for a big doom metal riff in the high-rate riffing of their sound and I think that’ll be the challenge for the next record, fitting those gloomier paced interests in with the death-thrashing urgency of their sound without feeling like a halt to the action. Here it works so well because it presents a grand conclusion within a larger arc enjoyed across the breadth of the experience.

Border-crashers, thrashers, and still skull-whippingly theatric killers in their riff obssessed exploration of all things heavy and morbid Molten Chains have impressed yet again with this third full-length, admirably evolving into their idiosyncrasy rather than gentrifying their wildest heavy metal craft. ‘Orisons of Vengeance‘ wasn’t the immediate crack off the bat hit with me that ‘Torment Enshrined‘ was and perhaps because they’ve consciously continued a fine thread with an ear for refinement here rather than take an unsteady leap elsewhere. This ends up being the right choice for my taste in the long run as it provides reinforcement for what’d been achieved prior but now with a more professional render and an exploration of theme which is far better formed and executed this time around. If you can’t stand the illusory borders of metal sub-genre challenged, well, curse you and your plebian ear-blindness to the interconnected nature of all. For everyone else, there is an unchained cryptid of great value to behold herein. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (89/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Orisons of Vengeance
LABEL(S):Alone Records [CD]
Night Rhythms [LP, CS]
RELEASE DATE:May 6th, 2022

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