So you've just discovered a band who likes to write concept albums. Concept albums outlining historical events which include the black plague and epic World War I battles. Surely said band must be of the power metal variety, no? Well, actually...not this time. For the writers of Yersinia Pestis and Warnaments is Torchearer, a hybrid of Thrash, Death, and Black metal. Formed by the members of bands like Scar Symmetry, Unmoored, and Satariel in 2003, the multi genre encompassing band seems to have quite an interest in sharing age old history with the rest of the world, whether it be well known events such as the black plague, or more obscure events such as The Battle of Jutland which Torchbearer's 2006 release, Warnaments covers. And while I have not heard the band's debut album, if Warnaments is anything to judge by, the European extreme metal band should definitely be one to look out of in the future.
So I've mentioned that on Warnaments, Torchbearer puts together a hybrid of metal's heaviest, most extreme sub-genres: death metal, black metal, and thrash metal. But how much does this actually accomplish? Unsurprisingly, it works quite well. Torchbearer takes the positives from each of the extreme sub-genres (plus a little melody here and three) and moulds them together into one big, generally three to four minute song. Though the influences of each vary from song to song (don't get me wrong, they're still there), fans of any of these genres could enjoy the album's relentless thrash metal riffing, the sheer brutalnesss of death metal, or the cold fury of black metal. And when considering the subject that Warnaments deals with, this collaboration of extreme styles is very writing, representing the frantic exchange of bullets; the perpetual cannon fire, and the cold depths of which sunken warships descended to. Yeah, it's a pretty epic album. The guitars play an important role in the production, as can be heard in the likes of the dominating melody Battlespawn or crushing main riff of The Blunted Weapon, which plays a large role in the direction of the four and a half minute song. Another impressive aspect of the album is the atmospheric element found throughout the album. While the atmospheric touches that Torchbearer employs are not the most…atmospheric you'll ever hear, they do a superb job of adding a surprisingly effective level of emotion into the album. Often just a simple melody to be heard in the background of the sometimes chaotic, sometimes soft passages of music, they introduce a sad, regretful element reminding listeners of the horrors and depressive nature of the topic Warnaments addresses.
In terms of songs, the album's best is undoubtedly the sixth track, Battlespawn. It combines each of the three metal sub-genres better than any of the album's other songs, which says a lot considering the emphasis on said genres. The song starts off with an intense, crunch filled riff, a riff that serves as the basis for the songs rhythm. But what separates Battlespawn from the likes of say The Blunted Weapon or Swift Turns of War is the immensely epic and powerful melody which becomes the centrepiece of the song. The mournful melodious guitar lines are among the highlights, if not the highlight of the album, and showcase the creative minds behind Torchbearer at their best. Definitely one of my favourite songs of 2006. Another epic song would be Burial Waters, Deepsome Graves. Remember the atmospheric touches I mentioned earlier? Well they're heavily utilized here. The mood of this track is quite similar to that of Battlespawn, both intense and rugged, as well as sombre and melodic. The powerful mix of rapid fire guitar lines, blast beats and screams fit the chaotic occurrences within the concept exceedingly well; where as the calm piano intros and outros attempt to help ease the listener after the brutal effort from the band. It's quite an epic expenditure, one which while used throughout the album in songs like The Blunted Weapon, remains fresh and interesting.
As some of you might be aware of, I enjoyed 2006's metal offering quite a bit. Sure, Trivium released The Crusade that year, but I found a number of enjoyable albums which combat that misfortune. Despite it not being crafted by a power metal band, one of my favourite albums of 2006's was Torchbearer's Warnaments, and for very good reason. They take all of the essential extreme metal elements and combine it into an excellent 34 (yet feels like it's longer) minute death/thrash/black record. If you're into any of these genres, you should definitely give it a shot. If not, it probably won't change your mind. But check it out anyways. It's one of 2006's best.
Burial Waters, Deepsome Graves
Dark Clouds Gathering
The Blunted Weapon