Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Impious Baptism - Wrath of the Apex Predator [2013]

Australia's black and death metal underground is one of the most unforgiving in the world. Seldom do they manage to fail muster acts that persistently and unabashedly seem to praise demons, hell, and whatever sorts of diabolical content they conjure in their wicked minds, and with their adamant approach to the genres they've proved to be the absolute paragons of extreme practices. That said, Jarro Raphael's solo project Impious Baptism is no exception, recently releasing their scorching debut offering ''Wrath of the Apex Predator'', whose title I've granted numerous accolades, after sordid handful of EPs. Jarro, or J, as choses to name himself, has played in more bands that you can count.  Just the names of Trench Hell, Cerekloth, Destruktor, Nocturnal Graves and Destroyer 666 are enough to soak the pants of a myriad of avid listeners of the ferociously oriented black/death anomaly, and ''Wrath...'' is guaranteed to soak quite a few more. Having listened to Impious Baptism's previous outing, ''Path of the Inverted Trinity'', I can safely say that J has improved upon his sound, making things even more fun while not entirely altering the rules.

''Path of the Inverted Trinity'' was a good fucking EP, despite its brevity; a caustic tour de force in the tradition of Revenge, Axis of Advance, Conqueror and Blasphemy, inculcating the notion of barbarous impiety with considerable strength and rawness, even when regarded alongside some of the bigger groups of today's black/death fleet. The new full-length hardly follows a different trajectory, but still, novel ideas and presentations are aplenty: the production, for one, is far more audible and accessible, while still keeping some of the grime and sodden grimness of the guitar tone; the riffs are somewhat more fleshy, with less emphasis of traditional war metal motifs and more of heavier, bulbous death metal structures that should remind listeners of Morbid Angel, Angelcorpse and Vader; and seething, hypnotic trace that ''Path...'' had so copiously stored is down to a lesser whiff of impurity. This alteration hardly reduces the quality of the album though, in contrast, the heaving, hammering force of the old school death metal tremolos are catchy and will undeniably cast a wider net as to rivet the attention of a larger audience, although they still lack innovation, so you get the sense that J was struggling more to find a combo densely applied demolition than to actually create a string of inventive riffs.

J's low pitched howls somehow resemble many other Australian vocalists in the field. They're low, sinister, but edgy, just enough to keep you relatively frightened and immersed at the same time. In spite of all this praise, though, ''Wrath...'' does admittedly have some flaws. It manages to surpass ''Path...'' in many separate departments and thus outshines it in overall quality, but the main aspect that I found to absent on ''Wrath...'' was that pungent, dissolute sense of evil that was conveyed effortlessly through the EP's narrow yet crude choice of chord barrages and poorly conducted production quality that made it a real war metal record. This may see like delving a little too deep into the margins of death and black metal but I feel obliged to state this: the accessibility of the full-length has connived the true devilish grin that the EP had possessed, undeniably replacing the patterns of gruesomeness with patterns of groove and bludgeon. Nonetheless, I did find a fairly adequate amount of formidable impiety in the album, be it in J's rancid vocal lines or the sheer atrociousness of the broiling guitars. The title track is one of the more explosive tracks on the album, bursting with fiery rage, while ''Release The Titans Part I'' focuses on some slower progressions, and nearly each track comes with a dark ambient that further explores J's conquest of occultism and hellishness.

''Wrath of the Apex Predator'' is not quite the brilliant war metal album of the year, or of recent years for that matters, because the catalog of bands in this vein is extensive and rich, but in terms of sound and structure J is competent enough to tick most of the boxes, though a record with more essence and freshness would have been far better venerated, but the overall strength of the record is convincing enough to go well with a helping of blood and goat's semen, continuing to corrupt unpolluted minds in the good ol' tradition.

Wrath of the Apex Predator
Rites of Illuminated Death
Axis of Lucifer

Rating: 80%

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