Sunday, September 20, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Kommandant "The Architects of Extermination" (limited digipack version, 2015) + "Promo 2015"

The promo mentioned in the post title features three tracks, all album versions (songs 2-4), so I mention it as a cool collector's item only.

The digipack version of The Architects of Extermination comes with a HUGE poster flag and a bonus track ("Killing Word"), which is interestingly placed in the middle of the album, suggesting to me an intention to include it in the first place. If it was simply a track that didn't fit on the album or wasn't in the same style/skill level of the album, it would make sense to place it last, as sort of an afterthought, avoiding album-flow interruption. This inclusion as a middle track makes me very curious to hear the track and speculate on the decision not to include it on the standard CD/LP version; if it didn't fit, it wouldn't be placed in the middle of the album, right?

So, back to packaging. The artwork looks very much like Soviet propaganda art, a perfect choice for the band's aesthetic. The lyrics are mostly unprinted, with some portions available in the booklet. See below image for some ideas about the type of imagery that accompanies Kommandant albums.

As I wait to press play on the album, I'm still hung up on the bonus track, hoping that "Killing Word" might be about Frank Herbert's Dune... we shall see!

1."Let Our Vengeance Rise" opens the album slowly and with much atmosphere building via ambient textures. It develops into a march, presumably as our vengeance rises and organizes. About halfway through, the vocals/guitars/bass/remainder of the drum kit deploy for a slow, heavy, discordant tone-setter.

2. "The Architects Of Extermination," bearing the album title's weight, starts strongly with feedback and vocal madness, as well as a catchy mid-90's Black Metal riff... it feels sort of French (ala Deathspell Omega perhaps). Also about halfway through, there's a song change as tracks drops out and the song becomes briefly very atmospheric and effects-laden, returning to its discordant, blackened meanderings rather quickly. Now that we've been introduced properly to the Architects, we can move on to:

3. "Oedipism" really brings forth an element that was more peripheral on the opening tracks; that of decadence and degeneration. The music is similar to the preceding tracks, but more discordant and eerie, though faster and more structured. It introduces a really demented riff change at 2:31 that seems like the twisted ramblings of madness as structure breaks down. This seems like it could relate to the madness inherent in the tale of ascendancy/decline of Oedipus in traditional Greek mythology. It could also have to do with some Freudian concepts regarding Ego, narcissism, sexual drive, and all sorts of conflict. In any case, I wish the lyrics were printed, but this song is quite deranged!

4. "Acquisition Of Power" returns to almost pure discordance, reminiscent of Blut Aus Nord's "The Work Which Transforms God." The drumming is also the fastest and most intense yet. It is as though the troubling psychological destruction of the last track has led us to a vicious, neurotic bid for power. The last 1:14 minutes are really intense, with a slow militant marching beat adding maximum heaviness.

5."Killing Word" changes pace, and is the most structured song on the album, it is highly syncopated, and feels most like some Industrial-Metal hybrid. Maybe Godflesh behind enemy lines, brainwashing foes. It feels like a march mixed with degeneration, with serpentine riffs and disorienting vocals. Perhaps the auditory equivalent of riding the Old Man Of The Desert high on spice? No, I'm not just reaching, I'm shark-jumping. But this is another bizarre, decadent/degenerate track.

6. "And Nation Shall Rise Against Nation" continues in the style of "Acquisition Of Power;" discordant, eeire, comparable to B.A.N., but this time slow, huge, and lumbering in sound. Perhaps like Nations rising against each other, ha! I like the title, very prophetic, in a Revelations kind of way.

7. "Rise And Fall Of Empire" feels like a third part to "Acquisiton/And Nation..." with more discordant guitars and eerie, disorienting guitars/bass/vocals. Seemingly following the eponymous Empire's rise and fall, the song builds until the last minute or so (of 7+) with clean, demented vocals over a fade-out of the other instruments.

8. "Onward To Extinction" follows a similar structure with a quiet beginning, building from a guitar solo (as in by itself, not frenetic string plucking), to a furious mid-bit and a quiet close-out. This track, however, is far more menacing, as it should be!

Overall thoughts: this album takes further the progression of 'The Draconian Archetype' towards less frenzied, more cold, atmospheric compositions. Less Marduk, more Cold Meat label deathly Industrial vibes. The production is much more obscure and actually heavier for its pace.

I feel we can look at Kommandant's catalog as a story; the earlier material is hungrier, fiercer, more militant. It is as though a new regime gathered its forces and launched an assault on listeners, by 'The Draconian Archetype' the regime had won and was taking over, seeking to control the masses. Now, in 'Architects' the supreme totalitarian dictator brainwashes the masses and degenerates into opulence. This new album feels more cerebral versus the more visceral earlier material. It is like an auditory, hallucinatory, subliminal propaganda terror-tactic. It takes a while to absorb, but makes an indelible mark; compared to the iron-gauntlet-to-the-face of, say, 'Stormlegion.' So what about "Killing Word?" It breaks up what I propose to be a quadrilogy of tracks (Acquisition/And Nation/Rise And Fall/Onward). It only makes sense to interject it if the whole album is a concept, then a supposed ruler (who recently acquired power) could in fact rise to such heights of fear and respect that his (or her) name alone could become the impetus for killing. Thus the track would fit here in the story... maybe.

Well, enough Asperger-esque hyper-focus and strangeness on my part (perhaps I've become just as demented as I find this release). I really like the album, and find Kommandant get more and more interesting to me with every release. I'm really excited to see them at Martyrdoom IV this November to experience how these new songs fit into the set and compare to the two times I've seen them previously. Perhaps more about the concept behind the tracks will be revealed via the material's live presentation. In any case, it should be incredible and intense.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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