Review Summary: A worthy addition to Averill's successful musical career, not to mention the work of a promising doom metal band from Ireland.
Irish doom metal group Dread Sovereign is the latest of a number of underground metal acts to feature Primordial frontman Alan Averill. The man has certainly been busy over the last couple of years or so, that's for sure, but it seems everything he contributes to ends up being consistently impressive. Despite covering the same sort of themes which has plagued doom metal from day one, Dread Sovereign's sound is akin to a thoroughly blackened pit of despair or an invocation to a satanic ritual, because of all the deeply morbid sounds and atmospheres which are created throughout the band's debut album, All Hell's Martyrs
The general atmosphere throughout Dread Sovereign's album is in fact one of the things which makes it a consistently great album, and despite proving themselves as unnecessary instrumentals (cutting the flow of the album's general progress slightly as a result), opener “Drink the Wine”, “The Devil's Venom” and “The Great Beast” all feature ghostly, slightly hypnotic soundscapes created by synthesisers and made even darker by a raw production. However, it's really the longer songs which truly build on this dark-tinged atmosphere, and you can hear the gradual, mesmerizing overtones as each member of the band contribute via a well-refined rhythm section. The drums are for the most part, powerful and solid, the guitar is appropriately heavy and the bass rumbles with a dull yet spiritual energy. The solidity of the rhythm section makes songs such as the enigmatic closer “All Hell's Martyrs/Transmissions from the Devil Star” that much more visceral, also ending them on a high.
One thing which does stand out from the pack is Averill's hard-to-forget vocal delivery, which proves instantly memorable and never seems to leave the listener's ears hours after the album has finished playing. Those who have repeatedly listened to Primordial will know how varied and passionate a vocalist Alan Averill tends to be, and although he utilizes that well-refined talent here, he also sometimes echoes the classic metal feel that you get from a mid 70s Black Sabbath album, but with a generally more chaotic and sinister feel. On songs such as “Pray to the Devil in Man” and “Cthulhu Opiate Haze” Averill's vocals flow seamlessly with the instrumentation, and for this reason the recording is as tight as ever. On the former he, alongside other echoed vocals (probably courtesy of demons from hell), repeatedly chants “DIES IRAE” until it dissolves completely into the wall of noise created by the rhythm section, whereas on the latter, Averill's voice is completely focussed upon, and you can almost hear the monster breathe by the frequent shouts of “CTHULHU” throughout. It's quite a lot to get stuck into, but because of the way he sings/shouts/chants, Averill always seems to be a touch mesmerizing from the moment he starts, and this is displayed on All Hell's Martyrs
Not everything is slow-burning and dull on the album however, although you do get that impression from the first half of the album. For that reason, the first half of the album also seems to be slightly weaker than the second, due to the final three songs being the definitive highlights. Of course, it's no lie that towards the end of songs such as “Thirteen Clergy” and “Scourging Iron” the instrumentation explodes and spirals out of control with a well-refined jam session, but on the latter songs it just feels a bit more natural and fluent instead of everything being rushed at the end. That's why the album's stunning final triumvirate of songs is the most noteworthy thing on the album. “We wield the Spear of Longinus” is aggressive yet epic, invoking the influence of early Candlemass, “Cathars to their Doom” feels more accessible and has hook-laden guitar parts which are always headbang-worthy, and the album's sinister closer “All Hell's Martyrs/Transmissions from the Devil Star” is masterful enough to rival the majority of doom metal bands today.
And so as the final two minutes of synthesiser-led sounds and blackened atmosphere finally comes to a stop, you surely won't have regretted using up a hour of your time to listen to Dread Sovereign's debut album. It is simply sixty minutes of sinister, epic doom, but the musicianship, vocal delivery and raw production all contribute to a powerfully ambitious sound which although invokes obvious influences from the heavier end of the 70s and 80s, still confirms that dread Sovereign are in a musical world of their own. Let's not disturb them.