Let us pause and take a moment to just bask in the glory of that album cover. Rendered in the style of After School Detention on Xerox, it resembles the more refined works of that one kid named Joel who sat across from you in Biology, the one that kinda had a beard and smoked the Marlboro Reds and did that weird thing with the bunsen burner and the fetal pig in the lab that one time. Coupled with the music within, a deeper, underlying message reveals itself in the masterful genius of the artwork. The Axecutioner fella over there on the left becomes a metaphor for Siege Column bringing the axe down on all the crap plaguing modern death metal. All the pretentious-ass, cognac-sipping, hi-fidelity system, limited-to-100-SpinArt-colour schemes bullshit is being held up like a false prophet in the inquisition, ripe and ready for a swift gutting. All the “exclusive” neon variations on the same fucking sewercore band’s long sleeve shirt in your wardrobe won’t save you now, I’m afraid. A smirk in the face of the old school death metal trend, Siege Column’s sophomore full-length skirts around the contemporary consensus of the idea of the “old school.” Darkside Legions sounds fresh out of 1989, informed by the likes of the early works of (especially) Autopsy and Blasphemy, as well as touches of Terrorizor, Obituary, Sodom, and Sacrifice. Within its spirit lies a commitment to pushing extremity found in the Brazilian thrash efforts of bands such as Vulcano, Sarcófago and early Sepultura. The iron fist of of the most wild, daring, and outright beastial output of late 80’s thrash splits the cheeks of extreme metal on the album forcefully between Death and Black, represented respectively by the two figures offering the sacrifice to the Blade of Heavy Fuckin Metal found in the cover art. The shadowy, hooded Executioner of Doom is present and at the ready for the carefully timed whipping of the cat-o-nine-tails to draw out the agony of the whole affair for maximum satisfaction; all occurring before the sadistic pleasure of the Judge of the Real and the True, reigning mercilessly from the cavernous Throne of Contempt for all that is Weak and False.
“Siege Column rips, man.” – Joel
Thanks, amigo. But why does it rip? Well, Joel old buddy, let’s take a deeper look here. The creepy, Carpenter-esque synths of the intro are already underlined by wailing, wavering feedback of guitars hinting at the possibility of some totally sick divebombs in the near future, so that’s a start. Siege Column really whet the appetite at the beginning, especially when the song really starts kicking through the door to the second-floor bathroom like the an overzealous school resource officer when he knows ol’ Joel has been sampling a bit of the devil’s lettuce between classes.
Oh, that sweet, sweet bass, baby. The ominous trod up the neck, slathered in that distorted Impetigo-esque sound really starts cooking as it interplays with the riff before the two come together. Once we’re going, the Autopsy element really shows itself, when those thick wound strings popping against the instrument itself really become audible. The guitar has enough sense to stay out of its way. It’s a trick in metal that goes all the way back to Sabbath: it’s not how low you tune your guitar or how thick your tone is, together bass and guitar can achieve so much more when they give one another room to breathe, even in the confines of the most nightmarish torture chambers of death metal. This isn’t to say the guitar doesn’t hold it’s own, but it’s more of a jagged razor than a bludgeoning instrument. The blade and the club together provide a versatility that is so quickly lost when everything attempts to batter, and the result is infinasmally more lethal.
As the bass drags its knuckles across the stalagmites, the guitar has its own space to shine, shattering the stalactites in the upper register with it’s wails as it delivers on the promised divebombs in the intro. The drums alternate between a grooving, one-two pace and outright merciless blasting. However, it never feels like perfect sixteenth notes often found in post-1993 black metal, but rather like the intense speed of thrash beats pushed to their limit, harkening back to that Brazilian thrash point of reference, or perhaps a touch of that battering grind influence. The sound is interesting too – there’s so much reverb on the snare that when it’s in full-frontal blast mode, the echoes bleed into one another in an almost choral synth effect hanging on a single, off-key note. It creates an atmosphere of the tranquility found in the singlemindedness of a blind rage, the ecstacy in the singular purpose of total destruction of anything at hand and everything in sight.
“Snakeskin Mask” breaks out into quite a heated argument. “BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMABAM,” protest the drums at the intro to the song. “DRUNGADRUNDRUNGADRUNDRUNGA,” the bass angrily disputes. The rhythm guitar agrees with the retort, chugging along in support with, “CHUNGACHUNGACHUNGA.” Meanwhile, the lead guitar starts going off the rails, wailing on about, “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWOOOWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOWOOWEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” and, “EEEEEEEEEOOOOOOWEEOWEEOWEONYYYYYOOOOO,” continuing to whine about “PEEEEEWEEEEOOOOWWWWAWAWAWAWAWOOOOOOWPTHOOOOOOOO,” and “EEEERRRRRRRRRWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWOWOWOWOWOW,” delivering with no holds barred (unlike the fella in the background of the album cover) on some of those divebombs teased at in the beginning of the album, slicing through the crudded and crusted chunks of rhythm with a gleaning sharpness that slices open adrenal glands with considerable ease.
Really, at this point, it’s is pretty much all you need to know about whether or not you’re going to enjoy Darkside Legions. There certainly are standout moments, generally when the riffs really find a groove beneath the wash of violence, such as the slower passages on “In The Stolen Tomb,” the tribalistic tom work on “Echoes From The Underworld,” or the ominous riff-centric intro to “Funeral Fiend.” The reverberating vocals and outright veracity will certainly draw praise from the war metal crowd, but in all actuality, Siege Column are simply bringing the death metal with an added kick in the ass. The production shows a significant improvement over the kitschy but overall limiting bounds of Inferno Deathpassion (did I mention that bass, baby?!). Siege Column have a knack for capturing a similar reverence for their roots in Autopsy, Blasphemy, etc. as Darkthrone does to Celtic Frost and Bathory: mashing it all together just seems a logical choice. Done with the subtly of a 12,000 pound wrecking ball through a Little Tykes playhouse on the back of a semi going 160 miles per hour on a landmine-ridden interstate, the album is surprisingly fluid and well-driven, with one track leading the way to the next in a bombastic onslaught of the senses. My only fault with Darkside Legions is how limiting it is in it’s listening environment: it’s not music made for helping Aunt Shirley rearrange her Littlest Angel collection in the china cabinet, performing microsurgury during a brain transplant, or lightly dusting the cobwebs off the Rebrandts in the parlor. However, if you’re planning an afternoon of killdozing, attempting an airdrop from a C-130 into a war-ravaged country in nothing but a questionable choice of tighty whities and a pair of tomahawks, or passive-aggressively mowing your neighbor’s lawn*, then Darkside Legions has both you and Joel covered. Just make sure you use the Sport Walkman for this one – it’s going to take a serious beating.
*Kurt, if you’re reading this, please cut your grass. The mosquitoes are getting unbearable and I’m just trying to enjoy the summer nights over here. I’ll turn down the music when you get that jungle in order, and not before.