Article written by Daniel McCormick
Over four bitter cold days in February of 1934, there was an uprising
in Austria. Tyranny was the victor then, and in the executions which followed, but the killing left its mark on history in the numerous “Unburiable Dead”. Stephen Vincent Benét wrote on the lingering ghost of this conflict, those “Unburiable Dead” in his ‘Ode to the Austrian Socialists’, which carries with it a central theme that I believe a quote from Chuck Keller, Ares Kingdom’s sole song writer, describes well:
“History tells: the veneer of civilization is very thin, and the world remains governed by the aggressive use of force… despite appeals to logic and reason, you get our world—the kingdom of Ares.”
For while the gilding of modernity instills an inability to fully appreciate to the horrors of history, and we find ennui at the heart of much that is claimed to be injustice in our first world padded cells, the voice, these specters, still speak to us.
Now, turn back the hands of time twenty years prior to the Austrian Civil war and we find ourselves staring down the thick steel of a Vickers machine gun, at the onset of WWI. This is the stage for Ares Kingdom’s third full length album, a concept album of sorts, and a memorial in its own right to the “Unburiable Dead” and the vicissitudes which enveloped nations. From an unprecedented influx in engineering and patents that took place over the forty years prior to the onset of war came the engines of death capable of destruction beyond the understanding of the milieu which bore them. Such misery and violence underlies the imagery of the first four tracks, and, like Zarathustra come down from the peaks, the final three pieces are as songs of experience and wisdom, or is it despondency and spleen? Nonetheless, the album bears a easily followed framework, and one befitting the subject matter.
The music carries a continuity through out the album, and is very much in step with what one has come to expect from Ares Kingdom. Melodic and death stylings seem tied to a steel spine of traditional thrash, and at times verging on an extreme form of heavy metal. Alex Blume performs the vocals with great consistency, and while his range may be minimal the execution is imbued with virile aggression. Alex’s bass work seems solid, and to expectation but doesn’t offer me much on which to build commentary- may be it’s a different story in a live environment? Mike Miller’s percussion does well to accentuate and amplify the dynamics, though I did find myself with the nagging feeling that I was wishing it to go places at times which it never did. With a stand out performance in “Nom De Guerre”, “Demoralize” didn’t seem to indulge my attention in the same way, and overall the drums are greater than sufficient but well beneath virtuoso. A tight backing, as it were, for the main interest.
Chuck Keller’s guitar work, as I’ve come to expect, is the specific reason to seek this album out. If you’ve ever caught one of Ares Kingdom’s live sets, you’d know what I was talking about. Highly creative with technical prowess and gear capable of capturing a dense, traditional, metal tonality, the sound achieved on this album is a paramount effort. The high production values only further the experience. Chuck expressed in interviews that this album was a long time in the making, having begun writing some five years prior to release, and I believe there is much evidence of that. The music communicates – having been well developed, with a harmonious rhythmic body that consistently builds in intuitive and accessible manners, and which drives, with excess, the emoting of phrasing. Essentially, this is a brilliantly written and executed album by a true underground veteran.
This is an epic work, and I give full recommendation. It is astonishing that this comes from such a region of the US so destitute in quality metal music, though all the more reason for lending of support to a lone voice in a sea of banal creations by insipid hipsters and wannabe trash.