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Album Review: ALL OUT WAR Celestial Rot

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In an era where "blackened" has become a common prefix for many genres that end with "core," All Out War's embrace of such aesthetics still comes as a pleasant surprise. Since rising out of the New York hardcore scene, these guys have established a reputation for a particularly potent shot of adrenaline. From Mike Score's animalistic vocals to the nasty crossover riffage from Guitarists Taras Apuzzo and Andy Pietroloungo, All Out War has found many ways to push East Coast tough guy music further than many of their contemporaries. Perhaps this explains why they made the black metal transition so naturally. Celestial Rot sprinkles the band's destructive mosh riffs into black metal akin to Darkthrone's Total Death… and it absolutely destroys.

The Darkthrone comparison proves particularly appropriate, as opener "Snake Legion" merits the Fenriz line: "How much more primitive can you get?" All Out War gets straight to the point with grating tremolo picking, whacking percussion and bestial howls. Score plays into his most feral tendencies, helping Celestial Rot succeed both in chilling dissonance and hard-nosed austerity. Indeed, tracks like "Glorious Devastation" display an emphasis on the savage roots of black metal, offering a punk-inspired pounding before the midsection comes in swinging with a classic New York beatdown. This version of All Out War is unafraid to toll the ominous church bell like it's '95 in Scandinavia to usher in their more familiar brand of heaviness.

The coolest part about this genre crossover is how singles "Wrath/Plague" and "Hideous Disdain" don't try too hard to be the back metal phase of All Out War. Both tracks feed the new influence through a filter of the blunt impact and lethal tightness the band has already refined over the years. Whether it's the former's unrelenting aggression, or the latter's brooding intro of disembodied screams and doomy half-time, there's a healthy lack of distinction between the blackened parts and the metallic parts. This natural integration allows these songs to flow from blizzards of tremolo guitars to slug-fest breakdowns without getting too jarring.

All Out War effectively uses black metal as a means of emphasizing their most punishing elements. Score sounds like an actual crazy person as he caterwauls over the wall of harrowing wall of sound sound that is "The End Is Always Near," while the increasingly spooky riffs gives the song more to work with than pure barbarism. The thrashier vibes of "Caustic Abomination" get a similar treatment, with evil machinations infecting the merciless assault in all the right ways. Of course, it wouldn't be an All Out War record without those face-breaking mosh parts to get the hardcore kids swinging at each other… When those time-tested grooves arrive, Satan himself won't be safe in the pit.

Celestial Rot clocks in at 26 minutes and 10 tracks, so All Out War can get away with a more cut-and-dry approach. The title track more or less starts the same as the majority of the album, but things really take a turn for the dark when the half-time transitions into low gutturals and resonant guitar strains contrast the piercing icicles of of faster parts. In a similar way, the bludgeoning attack of "Weaving Oblivion" tastefully spotlights some three-count rhythm structure while maintaining a familiarly destructive surge of energy. There's still room for some flashy fretwork, but never at the expense of no-holds-barred aggression

The main incident of black metal pushing All Out War outside their comfort zone becomes "Revel In Misery," which spotlight's the genre's deeper potential for unsettling sonics. The vocals go from scary to straight up demonic, and the guitar leads and chord progressions get a lot more bombastic toward the end—a little less Blaze in the Northern Sky and a little more De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Regardless, the album closes with a final blackened hardcore onslaught to prove that a scarier All Out War doesn't have to be a less mosh-worthy All Out War. Removing the blackened aesthetics from "Horrid Shroud Of Heaven" would leave a solid thrashy metalcore song, and the new stylistic additions only add value.

As the wave of lovingly dubbed Lorna-core continues to swell, it's great to see heavy bands tipping a hat to black metal without the orchestral melodrama or indulgent dynamic shifts. All Out War's brand of blackened-core shows that there are many iterations of this style that can succeed as more than a novelty. Hopefully, the artistic success of Celestial Rot will lead to more cross-pollination in the underground as symphonic blackened deathcore reaches more festival radars.

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