Dread Sovereign
Alchemical Warfare

Welp, that didn’t take long.

Maybe things really are looking up? I know everyone had a shit 2020 – I won’t bore you with the personal details of my god-forsaken year – but while lots of folks have been ready to kick 2020 off a cliff and welcome the new year with open arms, I haven’t necessarily been so… optimistic. That being said, 2021 has barely gotten out the gate, and I’ve already got what I think is a viable candidate to make my year-end list.

If Alchemical Warefare from Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill’s (Primordial) side project Dread Soveriegn is a portent of things to come in 2021, maybe this year isn’t destined for the trash heap after all.

I don’t know what it is about side projects that so often end up working so well for me, but there’s no shortage of evidence that I REALLY like it when artists step away from their main gig to work on something else. Whether it’s Ryan Waste stepping away from the Municipal boys to put together criminally underrated Speed/Thrash outfit Bat, Patrick Jensen and Sharlee D’Angelo’s fantastic Witchery (honestly the best of all their collective band histories, in my honest opinion), or any number of other truly top-notch offerings throughout metal’s history, there’s obviously something to be said about really talented artists put together passion projects when they have the opportunity.

That all being said, while I’ve always been a big fan of Primordial, and specifically Nemtheanga’s truly unique vocal stylings, Dread Sovereign’s first two albums didn’t really hold my attention. They were fine offerings, but as I often find with a lot of doom metal projects, there just wasn’t quite enough to keep me interested throughout the entire experience. This may well be a personal shortcoming, but what can I say? My review, my opinion, buttercup.

This time around though, the iconic Irishman has injected a good dose of traditional heavy metal influences into his work, along with a touch of heavy-as-fuck, stoner-y Bison B.C. vibes here and there, and the end result is an album with a hell of a lot more variation and substance that fully grabs me by the throat and drags me along for the whole ride through sheer force of will. That’s not a complaint, I fucking love it. HARDER, DADDY!

While not a word often associated with doom metal, Alchemical Warfare has a real sense of urgency about it that really keeps things lively and exciting, two more words that, uh, don’t really go with doom. But nevermind that! After a heavy, building, Sabbath-like intro to “She Wolves of the Savage Season,” the band changes paces and really gets after it with upbeat, peppy riffs, and those unmistakable Nemtheanga vocals leading the way and commanding your attention. It’s an unexpected shot of adrenaline and really gets this album off to a proper start. The song goes out with a nice and slow, epic tail end that on prior albums might already have me feeling ready to move on to something else, but this time is a welcome change of pace that makes me want to see what’s next.

Follow-up “The Great Beast We Serve” really takes the traditional heavy metal influence and puts it center stage, providing a mighty, anthemic ode to the Dark Lord himself that’s uncomplicated, gets to the point, and sells itself very well without relying on too many frills. Great, fist-pumping riffs, a great hook, job done. Similarly, after a bit of a slow build, “Nature is the Devil’s Church” keeps unholy spirits high with a dirty, galloping riff, before really opening the taps with a legitimate rager that would get the darkest of demons whipped into a supernatural frenzy, and that’s before the band breaks things down with a nasty little break complete with chanting vocals and war-like pummeling drums that sound like some evil invocation of The Great Old Ones.

It’s on “Her Master’s Voice,” however, that Nemtheanga really puts his strengths, and indeed the band’s strengths on full display. He’s great throughout the album, but this is, without question, his vocal and songwriting highlight. I heard this song for the first time the week before Christmas, and the chorus has been stuck in my head ever since. The track has a more moody, classic doom vibe that carries into the atmospheric break on “Viral Tomb,” before the band kicks things back into gear with the driving “Devil’s Bane,” one of the album’s real headbangers. The band ends the album itself with the very Occult-y, chanting “Ruin Upon the Temple Mount,” calling to mind equal parts Melvins and Twilight of the Gods-era Bathory. Appropriate, given the band round things out with s spirited cover of Bathory’s “You Don’t Move Me (I don’t Give A Fuck),” a track recorded all the way back in June of 1983, but not released until 1992 on their first compilation album, Jubileum: Volume I. It’s for sure a unique and surprising choice for songs to cover from the legendary band, but pretty cool to bring up such an obscure track!

Given how much this kind of thing is usually so hit or miss for me, I’m very VERY pleasantly surprised to find how much of a hit this is for me. I’ve always wanted to get behind this project more, but my respect and love of Primordial and the high regard with which I hold Nemtheanga’s unique vocal talents have always left me wanting more from it. Now, I think I have the album that I’ve been waiting for from these guys, and I couldn’t be happier for it. Don’t be surprised if I mention it again in about 12 months.



[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
January 18th, 2021


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