Antichrist Siege Machine Are Relentless Explorers on 'Vengeance of Eternal Fire'

BY Marko DjurdjićPublished Apr 18, 2024


War metal, bestial black, blackened death metal: these are all apt generic descriptors for Richmond, Virginia's Antichrist Siege Machine (ASM). Formed in 2016, the band is — unbelievably — a simple two-piece (SB on drums and vocals, RZ on guitars), but you would never know it from the pandemonium they're able to conjure.

Having released two full-lengths of absolute chaos — 2019's Schism Perpetration and 2021's Purifying Blade — the band is back with Vengeance of Eternal Fire, an intense collection of songs straight out of a formless abyss. Although both the expectations and the hype for Vengeance of Eternal Fire have been high, ASM have more than delivered, gracing us with an album of unrestrained creativity, brutality and pleasure. It'll undoubtedly go down as one of the best metal albums of the year.  

Right out of the gate, album opener "Son of Man" starts with two successive instrumental explosions before we're thrust headfirst into a brick wall…or is that a song? Maybe both? These are bricks made of blast beats and screams, the blistering pace shredding your cerebral cortex on impact, right down to the bone — or what's left of it.

Well, you better shake off those splintered fragments of blood and skull because Vengeance of Eternal Fire is very loud, very abrasive and very relentless. From the outset, we're also presented with ASM's secret weapon: they incorporate an unmistakable, danceable (if you can believe it) sense of rhythm into all of these songs. Even at their most charging, you can bob along; there's a gallop (raise the Mares of Hell!), a bounce, and while that may seem contradictory when it comes to extreme metal, tracks like "Prey Upon Them" and "Vanquishing Spirit" feature snap-along sections that mesh extremely well with ferocity.

SB's snarling, gnarled vocals (recorded by Bob Quirk) are mostly unintelligible, even though they ooze from dead-centre in the mix. His drumming is crushing throughout, and it's truly profane that he can "sing" and play this many blast beats, this fast, without skipping a thwack. RZ's ever-distorted, straight-to-11 guitar summons the beast through hammer-ons, tremolo picking and giant, chunky chords, the riffs flaying from start to finish. There's absolutely nothing "clean" about this album: not the vocals, not the guitars, not the sentiment; it's all very blunt and aggressive, even when it's just feedback or noise. With a ridiculously tight 25-and-a-half-minute runtime, there's no reason for the band to stray far from the pummeling blast beats and wall-to-floor-to-ceiling riffage formula.

And yet, while the band retains the bestial black metal that's brought them their well-deserved notoriety, there are also wisps of hardcore, thrash, noise rock, powerviolence and grind, the latter of which gives war metal its distinct, cacophonous edge over blackened death metal. Even the squealing, tense solos on "Piled Swine" and "Abyssal Hate" have a surprisingly glitchy, electronic sound to them, even though they're created solely on guitar. There's dissonance and grotesqueness throughout, and at times it's unbelievably punishing (obviously! It's war metal, take your breaks elsewhere), but there's also melody, rhythm and catharsis; it all sounds and feels shockingly fun.

On "Sisera," after a crunchy guitar enters the left channel, the band (along with producer Matt Michel) mix nothing but atonal, ringing feedback into the right channel, creating a sense of space and horror, while the breakdown that follows will absolutely open any pit into a swirling mass of blasphemous exultation. Playing with levels and dynamics is not war metal's forte, and yet ASM take all of the genre's exhausting (and sometimes monotonous) elements and enhance them with stomp and circumstance. Album closer, the aforementioned "Abyssal Gate," ends the whole affair on an eerie, mechanical note, drifting off on a torrent of grinding noise before fading into silence.

Antichrist Siege Machine's music is not for everyone, not by a longshot. It's violent, driving and wicked, desecrating the ears and minds of any listener who dares step up and into the infernal fray…and that's the appeal! ASM have taken a challenging, subterranean micro-genre and turned it into something a little more fun, a little more varied, a little more — dare it be said — accessible, and that kind of progress should always be welcomed in metal. If Vengeance of Eternal Fire is any indication, this is one machine that won't be slowing down any time soon.

(Profound Lore)

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