Album Review: HIGH COMMAND Beyond the Wall of Desolation
While High Command comes from Worcester, Massachusetts, their sound is forged in the fire and steel of the hyperborean age. The groups’ debut full length, Beyond the Wall of Desolation, is an act of unbridled aggression, akin to the carnage inflicted from a barbarian horde. The first impression is always the most important. Some bands would simply be content to make a lasting one on their audience. High Command has certainly done so. They’ve also but thrown down the gauntlet and issued a declaration of war.
Upholding the old traditions of metal and existing in a class all their own, High Command is an unstoppable force. Guitarists Mike Bonetti and Ryan McArdle provide pulverizing rhythms that lay the groundwork for Kevin Fitzgerald’s blood-curdling vocals. Fitzgerald’s lyrics themselves are a call to battle and vividly depict warfare and devastation. Songs such as "Visions from the Blade" incite thoughts of savage combat from a time gone by. The material that exists on Beyond the Wall of Desolation isn’t your standard collection of thrash anthems. These are tales of sword and sorcery in the vein of Robert E. Howard’s Conan saga.
"Inexorable Darkness" begins the album. The galloping rhythm and chorus of “Into the darkness we ride” creates the imagery and feel of a cavalry charge. From this point forward, there’s no turning back. Like a conscript enlisted to take part in the war, High Command grabs the listener by the throat and throttles them unmercifully. The dust barely settles when the unforgiving ferocity of "Merciless Steel" breaks the silence. While some releases contain songs that detract from the listening experience as a whole, there’s no shortage of quality here. From beginning to end, Beyond the Wall of Desolation maintains its momentum.
High Command deals out a fair amount of punishment. It should be noted that more than once they display technical prowess and an incredible talent for composition. "Devoid of Reality," an intricate 8-minute anthem is a testament to the groups’ songwriting capabilities. Merging an ambient intro with mid-paced thrash, the song ends with a piano and violin gradually fading out as it reaches its conclusion. "Impaled Upon the Gates" merges raw brutality accentuated with melodic guitar playing. All too often some bands are dismissed as one dimensional or having only “one song” played over and over. Beyond the Wall of Desolation silences any doubt that might be lingering.
Napoleon once remarked that “In war, there is a move that is most decisive. It is the one drop of water which makes the cup run over.” Not only have High Command issued a strong statement with Beyond the Wall of Desolation, but they’ve also made the cup run over. They manage to invoke powerful imagery with their songs without letting them become burdened with overwrought complexity. Not once do they sacrifice the quality of the material for the sake of filling out the albums running time. Whatever new battles High Command have planned in the future, it’s safe to say we’re ready to ride into the fray with them.