Written by Kep
Kommand – Death Age
> Death metal
> California, US
> Releasing March 31
> 20 Buck Spin
I, like many a metalhead worldwide, have a Bolt Thrower-shaped hole in my heart. Yeah, I can listen to The IVth Crusade and Those Once Loyal and the rest any time I want, and there’s always Memoriam, I guess. But sometimes I get a hankering for a fresh dose of those warlike, mid-tempo battleground riffs, larger than life and as battering as a brigade of artillery batteries, and there’s no Bolt Thrower around to provide them. Nobody scratches that itch entirely, but there are a select few that manage to push the right buttons in my brain and give me a taste of that warlike death metal high. Dutch monsters Asphyx, for example, are one of the most well-established of those bands. Kommand is the newest of them.
The Los Angeles-based crew are by no means a clone of everyone’s favorite ertswhile death dealers, but they certainly do hit a lot of the same beats at a damn high level. Their tales of apocalyptic war make liberal use of powerful chugs and towering riffage that pierces through the smoke and rubble like a targeting laser. Grinding, always grinding you down with brutal mid-tempo pummeling, their songs are never less than heavy as a goddamn tank and every bit as destructive. They don’t beat around the bush either; you won’t find any interludes, ambient passages, or time wasted with samples on Death Age (or on their 2020 debut Terrorscapeeither, for that matter). What you will find: a tight 26 minutes of pitiless, devastating death.
This is the sort of album where every single track is built on an outstanding fucking riff. Every. Single. Track. The main riff of opener “Final Virus” is as stankface-inducing as any I’ve heard this year, and then “Chimera Soldiers” comes along to do it again, and then “Global Death” lays down the greatest Bolt Thrower riff that Bolt Thrower never wrote and I’m losing my mind here. And those riffs aren’t a bunch of one-offs; Kommanddevelop them as the songs go on, using their patterns to lay down foundational chugs beneath verses and throwing in secondary riffs later on that feel tightly related to the openers. Don’t get me wrong, this is headbang-bait from start to finish, and the songwriting isn’t going to rival bands like Opeth or Ulthar or whatever far-reaching and proggy bands you might idolize, but when it comes to writing tracks chock full of immensely satisfying riffage that doesn’t feel like a bunch of unrelated ideas cobbled together, Kommand is clearly among the best.
For example, on the aforementioned “Global Death”: that opening riff lasts for a full minute and it’s immediately followed by a close variation, then it gives way to a bit of snare-pounding bludgeoning, and then the riff variation is back again 20 seconds later and you damn sure won’t complain because it’s that good of a goddamn riff. That bludgeoning bit returns after, is extended as the song reaches its final stretch, and then Kommand breaks the tempo, jumping into something more square and upbeat as they ride classic death metal groove the ends. The sudden transition works because the new groove feels related to that secondary riff, and it’s the only big tempo change on the entire album (there’s a cool subtle one midway through “Polar Holdout” that isn’t as unanticipated). The other songs tend to find a comfortable spot and groove like hell on it, like a jazz combo finding the pocket, and so the lack of “variety” feels gratifying instead of boring.
Those band-wide pockets are often as catchy as they are because of drummer Sam Bosson’s uncanny ability to shift between a variety of classic top shelf death metal rhythms. Those cymbal-based grooves he hits are my some of my favorite in all of metal—check out the one not even 20 seconds into “Final Virus”, or the one that hits exactly midway through “Chimera Soldiers”—and on the more agitated and punishing tracks “Fleeing Western Territories” and “Collapse Metropolis” he beats the snare and those toms like literal war drums, driving the band’s sound to ever more brutal places. It’s no-frills drumming but it’s undeniably effective, volley after volley of precise and weighty hits that keep the war machine that is Kommand grinding.
Guitarists Ian Logan and Sam Shriver and bassist Tim Shriver, along with recording techs Mike Kriebel and Andrew Oswald, outdo themselves creating textures heavy and dense as a swimming pool filled with lead but with enough of a vibrating, scalding edge to literally take your head off. This is grim production, a dizzying onslaught of buzzing distortion and the primitive battering of thunderous drums that fills the speakers to the brim. It’s awesome. Vocalist Jesse Sanes’ gruff low shouts tower over all when they’re present like the peal of thunder, a glowering death knell that commands attention but isn’t mixed so high as to cover the rest of the devastation. Mastering was by the wizard Arthur Rizk, and is as quality as you’d expect given his track record.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Kommand once again deliver a record full of some of the finest wartorn battlefield riffage to be found in modern metal, an apocalyptic homage to humanity’s neverending war against itself. Death Age is damn good shit, and it goes a long way toward filling that Bolt Thrower-shaped hole in my heart. Don’t miss it.