Artist: Blood Revolt
Album Title: Indoctrine
This is the first full-length record from Blood Revolt, a Canadian/Irish collaboration between A. Nemtheanga from Primordial and Vermin and J. Read from Axis of Advance.
The production on this record is perfect: heavy on the low-end, with audible bass, a satisfyingly crunchy guitar tone, and thunderous drums. A. Nemtheanga's brilliant combination of clean and snarled vocals is way in front of the mix, right where it should be, and there's more than enough bite to the guitars to make them stand out throughout.
"One pill makes the retina blaze / And the other makes dead calm" -- these two lines from the album are all you need to sum up the songwriting on Blood Revolt. Indoctrine is alternately epic and unhinged, insane and coldly logical,and is entirely impossible to predict. Everything on this record serves to further the story, a tale of a fanatic who turns on the rest of society, believing himself to be the executioner of a terrible God. The resulting paeans to the "War-Giver" and "Blood-Letter" are just plain brilliant, unsettling and demanding in equal measure. Repetition is used to great effect -- key phrases like "a moving target" and "like a wounded animal" help unify the tracks into a single narrative -- yet each song has a specific statement of its own to make. These are surely some of the most distinctive lyrics ever written for the genre, and their delivery is even more so: Nemtheanga's vocals are jaw-droppingly unique, swinging from megalomaniacal clean singing to the embodiment of snarling, barking madness, often within the same song.
Likewise, the instrumentalism here rages and swaggers, trapped between the certainty of fanaticism and a monumental, frothing hatred. The riffing and drumming on this album immediately recall Axis of Advance -- they're simultaneously chaotic and driving, and are packed with unpredictable changes, one-of-a-kind fills, and catchy-yet-bizarre guitar lines. Indoctrine is both more melodic and more linear than Axis of Advance ever was, though. The occasional moments of pure melody, like the end of "The Martyrs Brigade", are made tremendously powerful by the churning madness that surrounds them. Fear not, because J. Read's insane drum lines are as distinctive as ever, as is Vermin's frantic guitar work. The crisp production and (slightly!) less chaotic songwriting on this record hasn't blunted their attack; if anything, it merely serves to bring what they're doing front-and-center. They're not afraid to slow down on this record, either: there are some monumental doom sections on this record, and the crushing central track, "My Name In Blood Across the Sky", is practically mid-paced... by their standard, at least.
That brings me to the combination of the vocals and instruments, which is where this album truly transcends the herd. Clean vocals over chaotic war metal could have been used as nothing more than a gimmick, but it's not so here. The imperious, overbearing tone Nemtheanga adopts on this record fits the subject perfectly, and the occasional switch to more conventional harsh vocals is brilliantly done. His singing is never content to simply sit on top of the music -- the vocals here are always used as either a complement or counterpoint to what's going on beneath, almost as if they're another instrument. The vocal delivery on Indoctrine is nothing short of stunning; in just one album, this band has utterly transcended the rules about what "works" in extreme metal and what doesn't. I'd love to say that Indoctrine will herald the birth of a new sub-genre... but I doubt that more than a handful of people are up to the challenge, so I suspect it'll remain unique.
Until the next album, at least.
Blood Revolt earns my highest recommendation -- Indoctrine is an instant classic, and an album others will be compared to in ten years' time. Fans of Axis of Advance, Revenge, Order From Chaos, Ares Kingdom, Diocletian, Truppensturm, and other heavy-yet-chaotic bands should get this immediately, and fans of Primordial, Manegarm, and Hammerheart-era Bathory should find a lot to like in it, also.
Standout Tracks: "Bite the Hand, Purge the Flesh", "Indoctrine", "The Martyrs Brigade"