Review: Siege Column – Darkside Legions
It’s no secret that the most popular strain of death metal these days is on some level fundamentally regressive. Morbid Angel longsleeves are back in, and bands that played to empty bars 10 or 15 years ago are headlining festivals again. That doesn’t mean that nostalgia is 100% accurate to the old days of the scene, and though terms like “old school death metal” are thrown around regularly, it’s almost always a lie—most bands called that not actually from the earlier days of the genre could ever be mistaken for an actual group from the ‘80s or ‘90s, and influences from other modern bands proliferate.
Siege Column from New Jersey defies the faux regressiveness of modern trends to dig back even further, striking a tone of primordial might that throws a fist in the face of all who ignore true metal. Every riff on their sophomore album, Darkside Legions, has a sense of purpose that’s lost to the atmosphere many bands shroud their bad songwriting with, and the meat of those riffs comes from an affinity for pre-death-metal that most so-called “old school” bands forget; the band in interviews mentions groups like Venom, Bathory, and Slayer, and as much as Siege Column isn’t a thrash band or a worship one, their ancient influences are clear listening to their music.
The songs on Siege Column’s sophomore album, Darkside Legions, don’t rely on tremolo’d chords, nor on start-stop hammers; each time fingers touch a guitar, the resulting sound both bludgeons and cuts, meeting a great intersection of power, memorability, and sheer aggression. Shawnslaught and Joe share vocal duties, and they have a great sense of dynamics, trading off more distinguishable howls and low barking growls that catch the ear and drive along songs that don’t really need more of a boost as-is. The drums are also fantastic, sticking mostly to simpler punk and thrash beats; Joe never overplays, and suits the primitive music in a way that I can’t imagine anyone replacing.
Though I mention the power and aggression of the album, something else that sticks out is the restraint in the songwriting. A song will go balls-to-the-wall and bring it back in to a plod, trading the ritualistic and the devastating back and forth in a way that’s not only natural but that builds a natural tension that most songwriters can never achieve, and even the most similar songs are clearly distinguishable from each other. Another high point is the killer production, which manages to be blown-out and demo-rough while also being punchy, clearly mixed, and lending a stupidly cool sense of grit to everything; as always, the album was recorded at the group’s own studio hideout, the Dungeon With No End, and it sounds like armageddon on black wax.
It’s awe-inspiring that only two guys are responsible for the hellish assault that Siege Column provides, though neither of those two guys are exactly new at this, and their other bands are without reservation all highly recommended. Nothing I’ve said in this little writeup really captures how cool or unique Siege Column is on record or live (seriously— catch them if you can, they’re in my top three modern death metal bands on stage), so just go listen to Darkside Legions and figure it out for yourself.
Stream and buy the album here and support evil metal!