Dread Sovereign – All Hell's Martyrs - Gatefolded 2-LP
Limited release on 180G vinyl in reverse gatefold jacket.
Includes heavy printed innersleeves.
Dread Sovereign may have been a name that skipped under your detection this year, with the deluge of big title releases during the first quarter of 2014 and all. The three piece Irish doom metal band have only been around since 2013, to which their first release was in the form of an EP and contained four songs that would come to be on the track listing for their debut LP, All Hell's Martyrs. Does this entry level title deserve more recognition, or are the band just blowing smoke?
In recent years it has become almost an assumed prerequisite that all doom metal bands need to have heavy, mind crushing guitars. When we take a trip back through the history of the genre, it's clear that doom hasn't always been so... dreadfully weighted. So when something comes along that has enough creativity to be able to lighten up the guitars and still retain the main fundamentals of what doom truly is, it's nearly always an invigorating listen. That being said, All Hell's Martyrs should be up for doom album of the year. Dread Sovereign have managed to not only achieve a one-of-a-kind sound with their debut LP, but also a differentiated style of composition writing that is unlike anything that's been heard in quite a long time.
Within the deep, dark chambers of All Hell's Martyrs lies a heavy reliance on the bass guitar to set the main structures of many tracks; of course, the band does like to switch up the composure, and sometimes during the same song depending on its longevity. "Cthulhu Opiate Haze" is a perfect example, as the group nearly forego the guitar all together until the latter half of the track, with the exception of various bizarre, spacey sounds created with pedals; audiences will find the special effects layered throughout tracks in creative, eerie ways. The guitar is only lightly peppered with distortion, which is essential since most of the work here is done via picking; though some chords do play a role in the content.
Staying in the rhythm that the bass line sets, the drumming is slow and usually a hit is initiated when a note is played by whichever guitar element is setting the current structure of a track. This style of drumming works especially well within "We Wield the Spear of Longinus", which is a lament that is equipped with a great little drum and bass interlude that happens right before the track erupts into the only fast segment of the entire album. The track itself is one of the most essential of the content, mostly since it utilizes more skill out of the guitar and drums, even going as far to have an outlandish, heated solo in the midst.
In the style of old school doom metal, the vocals are clean, clear and can reach highs that will give the listener goosebumps; however, vocalist Nemtheanga has proven his mettle for the few and far between growls within "Pray for the Devil in Man". There are many obscure, cult-like whispers that are sprinkled all around the album, which create an even deeper atmospheric effect when coupled alongside the occasional synth organs and choirs. To add to the doom and gloom, the lyrical matter is very dark in origin, speaking of Satan, demons and the occult; notably within tracks such as "Pray for the Devil in Man", "Cthulhu Opiate Haze", "We Wield the Spear of Longinus" and "Cathars to Their Doom".
It's true, All Hell's Martyrs is an album that has a very dream-like, hazy quality; the tempos rarely rise above a slow-medium pace, and the instruments aren't overly embellished with distortion. Suffice it to say, Dread Sovereign have used the bare minimum amount of distortion and synthesizers in order to get their message across, proving that if you know how to create ambiance then you don't necessarily need those components to make an amazing doom album. The added pedal effects really bring back a great old school vibe, as not many bands play around with creating these effects anymore. This release is definitely going to rival Ogre's Neanderthal for best doom album of 2014.