Saturday 28 June 2014

Act of Impalement – ‘Echoes of Wrath / II - Hyperborean Altar’ (Review)

Album Type: Compilation
Date Released: 6/6/2014
Label: Caligari Records

Act of Impalement – ‘Echoes of Wrath / II - Hyperborean Altar’ track listing:

1). Echoes of War 03:51
2). Heathen Omens 02:57
3). Atrocities & Spiritual Rape 04:43
4). Necromancers Theme 04:04
5). Teutoburg Forest 03:05
6). Upon the Hyperborean Altar of the Triad Gods 01:57
7). No Viking Funeral for Betrayers 00:53
8). Inquisition (of the Innocent) 02:36
9). Northumbrian King 04:42
10). Rise, Ancient Pantheon 03:08

The Band:

James De Rais | Bass
Vlad | Drums
Dark Druid | Guitars, Vocals


Nashville’s Act of Impalement is a golden example of the power that a fairly orthodox band can still have in a “post-everything” age. It’s simple, straight forward, filthy and strong and everything on tap is 100% post free. It’s a potent concoction of doom and mid-tempo death metal, without taking part in the Incantation worship that a lot of folks – including me – have been into for the last several years. This release is a cassette-only compilation of 2013’s ‘Hyperborean Altar’ and the ‘Echoes of Wrath’ EP released earlier this year, and while there are some differences in the production once ‘Echoes of Wrath’ ends and ‘Hyperborean Altar’ begins, the sound difference won’t put you off at all. This is a band that knows what it ought to sound like.

The material on ‘Echoes of Wrath’ occupies a space with a bit more life to it, starting with “Echoes of War” which gallops and swings like Celtic Frost or early Moonfog era Darkthrone, though this is much more death-infused than either of those bands ever were (save Darkthrone’s debut of course). In fact, it might be a good time to point out that despite their being obvious influences, Act of Impalement doesn’t strike me as derivative at all.

You’ll hear Celtic Frost, Autopsy, Winter, all with a guitar tone on the grizzly side of the Sunlight Studio sound popularized by Dismember. It’s a healthy mix to be sure, and one that yields some top quality results without question. The ‘Echoes of Wrath’ portion of things wraps up with “Atrocities & the Spiritual Rape”, and song that opens with a lurching, barbaric chug before building to a much speedier climax at a speed more in line Motörhead or early Entombed. After that pays off, it settles into a solid and deliberate grove, which sets the stage for last year’s ‘Hyperborean Altar’.

Generally, the “Hyperborean Altar” material finds its home in a generally slower tempo than “Echoes of Wrath”, though there are some violent speed outbursts; most notably on “Inquisitions (of the Innocent)”, which breaks suddenly from its deathly ‘Panzerfaust’-style crawl into a nasty, slow-grinding blast. By the time I got to this point on the compilation, it became clear that there weren’t going to be any real weak spots on this tape. That’s not to say that Act of Impalement couldn’t stand to embrace a bit more variety in terms of riff structuring or drum beat choices, but the whole thing is strong start to finish. “Teutoburg Forest” in particular is an example of what I think their blueprint should be going forward. It starts off as a headbanger; like some corroded, mutated and pitch-shifted version of Mayhem’s “Pure Fucking Armageddon”. Then it drops into a note-bending doom fest, with a palm-muted, stuttering collapse before the riff resets. It’s like the doom metal version of a rusty machine falling apart, which to these ears is a beautiful thing.

Although the cassette format isn’t for everybody, you’re not going to want to sleep on this release. If you aren’t interested in the cassette, try the Act of Impalement Bandcamp page for a digital download. Caligari Records have a great find on their hands, and if you like the idea of doomy death metal laced with black metal at its most primal, Act of Impalement should be pretty high on your list this year. 

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can get it here