DENOUNCEMENT PYRE – Forever Burning (2022)REVIEW

Aiming to empower their following after a moderate period of dormancy with an energized return, Melbourne, Australia-based black/death metal band Denouncement Pyre speak to the defiant, chaotic nature of extreme metal’s die-hard fandom on their fourth full-length album, peeling back their assault to its primal electricity and flailing forth with maniac tunnel envision of their target. As such, ‘Forever Burning‘ is as much a directive delivered as it is a solid riff-obsessed black metal album and though it doesn’t land the nail upon skull as triumphantly as expected there’ll be no disappointment among the folks it intended to strike from the start.

Formed in 2003 by vocalist, guitarist, and bassist Decaylust (Hunters Moon, Nocturnal Graves) and featuring various drum seats held throughout the band’s first seven or so years Denouncement Pyre would initially develop a barbaric form of thrashing black/death metal seemingly inspired by the work done in groups like Deströyer 666, Abominator, and Martire if we’re looking locally in the mid-to-late 90’s. This can be observed in rabid purity on their first demo tape (‘The Storm to End All Wars‘, 2004) and you’ll find a progression of this style in several EP and split releases leading up to their full-length debut, all of those releases featuring Chris Volcano (Ignivomous, Abominator) until their first of several releases for Hell’s HeadbangersWorld Cremation‘ (2010) would feature InVotan (Stargazer, Martire) on drums. If you’ve just jumped between that first demo and the debut LP of course you’re going to need a few EP releases to supplement the difference as the full-length was more thoughtfully mid-paced though still incendiary and focused on blast-thrashing aggression. It is important to derive two points from those early days… First, they came from a bestial, thrashing ‘old school’ place and this is still a mark they proudly wear. Second,

You can figure what’d gotten me interested in that first record beyond the fine cover art per the recording line-up but it’d actually discovered the it based a recommendation a couple years later, which’d been based on much I’d liked Mongrel’s Cross‘ debut. Anyhow, the band put in serious work beyond that point (~2011) in forming what is still their eh, Mark III line-up nowadays with members of Nocturnal Graves and Order of Orias filling out the trio (quartet if we’re counting their live guitarist) and releasing two more full-lengths, each of which sought to exaggerate and extend the seedling of ideas found on the debut. Despite what a spectacular hypnosis ‘Almighty Arcanum‘ (2013) was at the time I distinctly recall the flippant, arrogant attitudes of the online community I’d frequented at the time essentially slapping it into a realm of typical Australian blackened death and black/thrash metal sounds, and despite it being rhythmically unique, or, having a bit more to do with post-‘Storm of the Lights Bane‘ black metal riffing than most. This sound would become the void-pondering, rousing signature modus of Denouncement Pyre going forward though they’ve managed to find more clever, refined ways to muse upon it over the years as we still find it seedling in the pulse and passionate attack of ‘Forever Burning‘ today.

For the ‘ready established fandom who’d felt to their core the impact of Denouncement Pyre‘s third album (‘Black Sun Unbound‘, 2016), saw the band at MDF that year, and waited hungrily around for the inevitable follow-up in that more pensive, mid-paced black metal style… I’m not sure you’re going to find it in ‘Forever Burning‘, at least not at face value. This fourth album aims for fiery aggression up front and an exciting return which, practically speaking, means you’re getting a record that must simultaneously live up to their previous work and present a clear and substantial directive. No longer pondering the sleek abysmal nothingness of the universe and instead worshiping the explosive, riveting scorch of its most destructive acts, Denouncement Pyre now manifest the fine essence of that previous album but stupidly lit on heavy metal fire, thrashing harder and growling out a throat full of clotted blood in the process. It is the right way to return after six years away from the studio and yes, take that “thrashing” bit quite seriously, since this is as heavy/thrash metal as Decaylust‘s guitar compositions have been to date, complete with dive-bombing wails and scattershot riffs as we break into the nuke of the opener and title track.

We’re still in the realm of this black-thrashing death metal universe as second single and second runner “The Liberating Fires of Moloch” lands next, here we find the band leader’s guitar work again beholden to a variety of regional influences of old, this being what I’d consider a very Swedish black metal affect and by association a close approximation of what most will have wanted beyond ‘Black Sun Unbound‘ and perhaps some justification for all of the Watain comparisons this group has gotten between 2016 and now. From that point I have to admit they kinda lost me for a few tracks, “Tongues Stretched for Salvation” hardly lands at all beyond being a buzzing black metal piece with an interesting lead or two but it only serves to fill space within the eight song/~40 minute format and though “Darkness In The Eyes Of Apophis” picks up the tempo and cuts a load of swerving riffs to pull us out of the mud the whole of Side A was a lot of flash and only a moderate chunk of it stabbed me with the spectacular fixation that I’d found on the previous two records. Their batting average will improve as we trudge on through but it’d been worth noting that first impressions were average to start.

If you’d heard the first single from the albums pre-release hype gathering, “Hung Like Swine“, it certainly deserved to have impressed you, since it features in droves the sort of nuanced rhythmic brilliancy which has long made Denouncement Pyre a choice group and taken to an umpteenth degree with the dance of the main riff thrilling on each listen of the album. As much as I’d hate to end up basically reporting that “Whoa, some good riffs man.” is essentially my major takeaway from a long anticipated record on my part but, yeah, in terms of sitting down and getting nuked by this particular brand of black/death metal I’d say Decaylust (or, just D.) still has that grip upon his rhythm guitar work that impresses me by default. From there things go a bit ‘Blood Fire Death‘ in terms of Side B leaning into the steadier pace of “Burn This World and Start Again” heading into the more prominently black metal phrased “The Opposer of Light”, with the two pieces almost gluing themselves together in pace and voicing as if they were pulled from the same take. In fact that’d be an important takeaway on my part as much of this album drones together in terms of its tonality, not so much variations on a theme but much of ‘Forever Burning‘ tends to land with a similar steady point of impact. If you are not interested in the ride of the aforementioned rhythms then the whole of the album will likely be a dead zone, or, at least won’t appear as dynamic as it could be with consideration for their last two records.

The fact that ‘Forever Burning‘ is such a ‘fuck you’ sort of record with high-energetic values dripping from its entrance certainly goes a long way towards getting me back in for album number four but all that the heavy metal spouting opener promises the full listen does not entirely deliver, and despite the riffcraft and quality of Denouncement Pyre‘s work being impressive throughout. There wasn’t any great case for obsession made here beyond a stretch of class pieces in the middle of the record as a heavier lean into straight black metal avenues conflicted with some of the spirited thrashing found early on. Great sound, fine album art, and an altogether sharp return from a band who’ve not missed a beat in terms of keeping the standard high but it wasn’t enough to truly dent my skull. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (76/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Forever Burning
LABEL(S):Agonia Records
RELEASE DATE:June 17th, 2022

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