Review: Kommandant – The Architects of Extermination
Those expecting a straightforward, easy-to-classify black/death metal album, turn back now.
Based on our interview with guitarist/founder James Bresnahan in February, it’s abundantly clear that Chicago’s Kommandant is less than enamored with the way civilization is continuing its slow, inevitable slog toward bottoming out. Humanity in general is not a reason to celebrate: it’s a reason to tear down & start over. With this in mind, the sound Kommandant achieves on The Architects of Extermination is nothing less than an aural personification of their credo: “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”
The way in which they achieve this was, as a listener, extremely unexpected. Instead of a treble-heavy brickwalled production pushing the limits of maximum decibels, there’s a pleasing “low contrast” quality to the mix that rewards repeat listens and unifies the overall attack of each song. Angry swarms of dissonant guitars that maddeningly slink between harmonies serve as the opening volley fire to a snarling, throaty cannon of a bass tone and the well-appointed artillery of a seemingly three-armed drummer and his two drumline associates. And on top of it all, like the malevolent dictator image he cultivates, are the singer’s pained, droning vocals that float through each song unconcerned with tempo, verse or chorus.
The opening track, Let Our Vengeance Rise, is the proverbial gathering of the troops, a pre-battle anthem that is both rousing and fully acknowledging of the horrors that await after it ends. The title track is a suitably menacing dirge, blackened by caustic melodies and aching vocals. Oedipism and Acquisition of Power slow the tempo to fuck with your sense of comfort by piling on the musical dissonance of contrasting, squelching guitar tones.
Killing Word is a particularly mournful, menacingly manipulating track of minor tones and masterful atmosphere with a bottom-feeding bass growl that reaches deep into the mustard gas trench to inspire horrors only the most violent of wars can bring. And Nation Shall Rise Against Nation brings out the big guns; the listener-pummeling blitzkrieg of blazing tempos and blastbeats, leaving the battlefield a smoke-scattered waste before launching into the follow-up assault of Rise and Fall of Empire and Onward to Extinction. It’s the final two tracks that back away from the gritted teeth and thousand-yard stares of explosive combat and instead revel in the overarching machinations required to engineer a widespread downfall of order into chaos.
Sonically, The Architects of Extermination shares a slight kinship with another masked band: Portal. Both are complex creative entities who shroud their faces and muddy their musical intentions beneath layers and layers of complex sound, although in this reviewer’s opinion, Kommandant gain the upper hand here with a clearer vision and purpose (not to mention you can actually hear what they’re playing; somewhat less so with Portal).
If you’re looking for a dense, singular musical vision that celebrates deconstruction and the aftermath of a world razed by gas mask infantry, look no further, because this album fucking rips.
The Architects of Extermination is available April 27th.
(images courtesy of ATMF)