Disimperium - Grand Insurgence Upon Despotic Altars (Sentient Ruin)

Jon Reider (aka Serpent of the Flame) is a busy man. When he’s not fronting Ascended Dead, a death metal (DM) act that showcases his Riedl-esque capacity for juggling lead guitar and vocals, he dazzles audiences as a touring member of VoidCeremony, plays bass in Hell Strike, and sets the fretboard of his Ibanez on fire with the speed-worshiping blackened thrash of Invocation War. Somehow he also has time for a war metal (WM) side-gig, and Grand Insurgence Upon Despotic Altars is its flagship album, a chunky stew of entrails and ichor that finds the rising star in full-on sicko mode.

Diehard WM freaks will likely remember the band’s debut seven-inch Malefic Obliteration, a criminally brief but devastating exhibition of the band’s sleek prototype. Shrouded in reverb that disoriented and confused like a fog of war, the three tracks ambushed listeners with barrages of down-tuned guitar artillery and salvos of bunker-busting drums. Barring the bestial roars, the EP adopted a mechanical and vaguely cybernetic aesthetic, like a blackened and more autonomous version of Eskhaton’s rolling thunder. In contrast, Grand Insurgence Upon Despotic Altars is primitive and medieval, trading in the cold titanium and automated targeting systems for iron-spiked cudgels and hexed scepters. The thick reverb that made the EP feel so impenetrable and stealthy has been lifted in favor of a slightly cleaner, albeit guerilla, production style that reveals all the gory details like a naked, yellow light bulb swinging from the ceiling of a basement abattoir. 

This decision is sure to invite comparisons with Portal’s 2018 album ION, and Reider’s seasick guitar squeals on “Blade Obfuscation'' (and elsewhere) do resemble the Aussie disso-dealers’ Lovecraftian judder. While Portal’s penchant for the ambiguously occult lured ION into disorienting mazes of atonality, Disimperium never leave the the front lines. Songs are not so much concluded as disposed of, like mutilated corpses heaved into shallow graves. Even when “I, Servitor of Nought” collapses into a depressive drone, like a catastrophic hangover from the ultraviolence, it retains an impetuous, serrated edge. The opium-induced hoarseness to the gnarring vocals and whirlwind drumming also recall the desert fury of Damaar—tracks like “Conclave Desecrated” and “Sepulchral Mind Prison” rasp with the same rough-hewn grit. Both bands pilfer black powder from grindcore’s stockpile, but Disimperium use blast beats more sparingly, opting for meaty, hack-and-slash syncopation. This mid-paced churn tosses an alley-oop pass to the rhythm section, setting up one of the most memorable WM drum performances since Endless Wound. Fans of Black Curse (and other modern war fare) should take note—Reider has concocted a formula here that will turn a lot of heads. Just watch your neck, because it’ll lop them right off, too.