Written by Corey Critiques
Dread Sovereign – Alchemical Warfare
Death Doom from Dublin, Ireland
Released January 15th, 2021
Via Metal Blade
Formed in Dublin back in 2013, Dread Sovereign has been around for a while but never caught my attention. Their first two albums were released on Ván Records but ALCHEMICAL WARFARE is their first to be released on Metal Blade Records. I was looking through the selection of promos last week and I decided I would take a chance on Dread Sovereign’s latest release, ALCHEMICAL WARFARE. I say “taking a chance” because the description said something like “Classic Doom mixed in with some Venom”. Personally, I am not a fan of Venom, and as for Doom Metal, my tastes lean more toward the Funeral, Blackened, and Death/Doom variety.
Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself headbanging along to this album. In fact, I’d say the instrumentation and composition on this album reminds me more of something you might hear on early High On Fire records, closer to Stoner Metal than Doom but with all the bombast of a Power Metal band. In fact, this whole album made me think “Oh, this is what Dream Evil would sound like if they made a Stoner/Doom Metal record.” But I digress.
After a brief and unnecessary instrumental (“A Curse on Men”), the band gives us the first real song on the album, “She Wolves of the Savage Season”. Right from the title, I could tell that this was not a band whose lyrics were going to yield anything particularly thought-provoking. What I couldn’t tell was just how infectious this shit was going to be! After only one chorus, I found myself singing out loud, not caring about the silliness of the lyrics My thoughts don’t need to be provoked in order for me to rock out to any particular song; just give me some riffs, catchy melodies, and killer hooks. And this album delivers those! The song starts out with some slow, plodding but incredibly melodious and rhythmic melodies from all three members. Then, just when I was getting tired of it, the band amp things up. The melody changes and the tempo kicks it into a higher gear, eventually giving way to the vocals, reminiscent of proto-Black Metal bands like Venom and Hellhammer. The guitars are the star on this album, delivering some beefy, headbanging riffs while the drums and bass offer support, never doing much to steal the spotlight away from the riffs.
Dynamic shifts in tempo and melody help to keep this album from getting too stagnant. With certain kinds of Doom Metal, bands can get away with long stretches of repeated musical sections because that’s part of the appeal, to put the listener into that trance-like black hole. But with this more classic style of Doom Metal, repetition is a great way to get me to lose focus. That said, there are very few places where I really felt myself checking out. Certainly, there are a few sections I felt could have been shorter. For example, “Ruin Upon the Temple Mount”. This is the standout track on the album for me. It’s not my favorite (that would be “Nature is the Devil’s Church”) but it is the most unique out of all the songs. The slow drums and rumbling bass conjure up a deliciously evil atmosphere with a sly sinister smirk that lets you know some truly juicy riffs are on their way. Unfortunately, I felt that the build-up at the beginning does not deliver a satisfying payoff. It is very much a one-sided song in terms of enjoyability.
A few minor criticisms. Arguably, things get a little formulaic at times. It goes something like this: Song starts, a nice mid-paced groove goes on for awhile, like a horse riding to battle but still a good 300 yards away. Then, the melody shifts and the tempo kicks into high gear and we ride forth to victory with an anthemic chorus that will be sung so loud they will hear us in Valhalla! Uhh, ahem. Anyways, this album an absolute blast but it’s not something that I haven’t heard before. It’s not moving the genre forward. Which is fine. It doesn’t need to, sometimes, you just want some meat’n’potatoes Doom Metal. Something to bang your head, tap your foot, and sing along to. Pick it up now via Metal Blade Records.