Dread Sovereign

All Hell's Martyrs

Written by: EW on 27/04/2014 12:32:35

"All Hell's Martyrs" marks the LP debut of Irish doom trio Dread Sovereign, a band who on the surface are most remarkable for the inclusion of Primordial's Alan Averill on vocals & bass but for whom a further investigation reveals a deep and difficult 67 minute album that slogs through a variety of territories with an exuberance and knowledge that can only be borne of such experienced underground contributors. Rounding out the trio with Averill is his Primordial drumming buddy Sol Dubh and guitarist Bones (he of Wizards of Firetop Mountain), and in their haste at creating a varying side-project it is worth noting how meticulously conceived the whole soundscape is despite some of the flaws in the execution.

This being a doom record with a plethora of long songs DS are often in no hurry to get going but when they do decide to there can be found a more than decent number of powerful riffs waiting to knock you sideways. Take "Thirteen Clergy" as a fine example, although "We Wield the Spear of Longinus" will also do - the uncluttered feel which defines the production boasts a strong rhythm riff before bursting into a chorus crescendo of passion where Averill's famously recognisable howl takes charge from the predominantly strangled, peculiarly hoarse style we hear for the most part, a style employed as if he has tried to deceive the more casual listener into who is performing. The lack of clutter in the sound is really wonderful as it allows each instrument to be heard on its own terms, notably that man's bass. Revealed is a proper power trio dynamic, with the uncomplicated instrumental performances being stretched into songs of relative complexity and variance in much the same way one other famous doom power trio managed: Reverend Bizarre. To appear more complex than is the case is no mean feat and a testimony to the lurking feel of dread found in the slow progress of "Cthulu Opiate Haze", "Pray to the Devil in Man"'s feel of paranoia, or "Scourging Iron"'s minor chord patterns, where subtle shifts in key and movements in tempo keep the ball slowly rolling with that unsettling aura continually lurking in the background, as if a deeper menace is waiting to be exposed when you least expect it. Short interlude "The Great Beast" partially exposes it before the closing trio of tracks, which occupy 34 minutes of track time look to finish this off.

Not at all times do Dread Sovereign fill these chasms of time with utmost quality, though: each of the 10+ minute tracks could lose some weight without negatively affecting the feel, notably closer "All Hell's Martyrs, Transmissions from the Devil Star", a song which drifts into reflective Solstafir-ian territories in the latter half of its 13 minutes in a section immediately striking as an album closer but which similarly drags the album to a rather psychedelic, plodding close. Fortunately "Cathars to their Doom" before it hones the strong Saint Vitus influence into some of the most rousing moments to be found, although it feels like Averill & co consciously hold back from fully flexing their bounding Primordial muscles to limit the inevitable comparisons that everyone is going to look for.

There is a reason so few side-projects from established metal names see them dive back into the undergrowth, a place where most acts will subconsciously aim to escape with their integrity intact one day. It is here that the burning passion for the darker territories of the metal subterranean drags this trio back into the start-up league with an album that feels like decades in gestation. "All Hell's Martyrs" is true doom without being derivative and offers an interesting turn from members who have repeatedly shown the honest blue-collar workings of metal at their heart.


Download: Thirteen Clergy, We Wield the Spear of Longinus
For The Fans Of: Saint Vitus, Reverend Bizarre, The Puritan
Listen: Facebook

Release date 21.03.2014
Ván Records

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