Title: The Celestial Dictator
Genre: Thrash Metal
Release Date: September 1, 2017
Length: 41 min.
Label: Evil EyE/Initium
Producers: Marco Angioni
Personnel: Søren Crawack (Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar), Rasmus Kjær (Drums), Thomas Carnell (Lead Guitar), Kenneth Frandsen (Bass Guitar)
Are you loving the burgeoning thrash revival that’s been spreading like wildfire the last couple of years? Have you enjoyed recent thrash releases from such bands as Havok and Lich King? Does it excite you when current metal acts make old sounds and philosophies new again? If so, I have a fantastic addition for your consideration: Denmark Teutonic thrashers, Impalers, with their September 1st release and third LP, The Celestial Dictator.
Impalers released their debut, Power Behind the Throne, in 2013 through Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and their sophomore effort, God from the Machine, through Crime Records in 2015. While they abandoned both companies for one reason or another, they seem to have found a fine fit at Evil EyE Records, a company whose motto is: “Spearheading a new wave of thrash metal since 2014.” They’ve been seeking to do just that with bands like Divine Chaos, Lifeforms, Lich King, and now Impalers, releasing The Celestial Dictator as a collaboration between Evil EyE and Impalers’ own, new company, Initium.
The Celestial Dictator contains skilled, technical, and complicated yet fairly straightforward and vigorous thrash that ponders some lofty themes. What is the cost of hiding the truth? What is free will? What is the meaning of mankind’s continued survival? Is man a blight upon the earth? Does religion tend toward inherent corruption? And what are the implications of authoritarian rule?
On Evil EyE’s website, Crawack says, “The Earth is a huge, complex, living entity, and we are the parasites that infest it. It’s time to change things around and also walk the talk. I feel we’ve created the perfect soundtrack for such a time. And even if you’re not interested in all that, I believe the music will speak for itself, and any lover of fast and aggressive music should find something to enjoy here.” Though the lyrics consider some philosophical questions, the music behind the lyrics is not necessarily pondering. It’s heavy, fast, aggressive, and metal thrashing mad, with only occasional pauses for breath.
Impalers have a very Teutonic thrash sound, with Bay Area influences and hints of East Coast thrash mixed in. Their style encompasses much of the heyday of thrash and death metal, the band being obvious students of such acts as Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Kreator, Sodom, Exodus, Testament, Overkill, Misfits, and Motörhead, alongside new thrashers like Warbringer and Vektor. They also put a fresh face on these sounds, injecting an invigorated energy.
The Celestial Dictator starts off with a brief, Iron Maiden-reminiscent, instrumental guitar intro. Then “Terrestrial Demise” kicks in, an excellent introduction to the album, putting on magnificent display Impalers’ speed, heft, and technicality. Hearty riffs enter the stage, accompanied by feverish twin guitars. Swift, steady, prominent drumming and a solid bass line create a sure foundation. And then Crawack comes in, his possessed voice simultaneously a guttural growl and a soaring scream. It’s gruff, but you can understand everything he says. From here on out, the album is consistent with its mixing and production, which is pretty good, giving justice to each instrument, not quite as bright as it could be but not as muddy as somewhat lower budget productions like this often are. The production also maintains a grittiness that only adds to the music at hand.
“Terrorborn” comes next, and the speed doesn’t stop. Neither does Kjær’s drumming. It’s a fun track, dominated early by Crawack’s rhythm guitar and Frandsen’s Ellefson-like bass, with Crawack’s vocals imparting high importance to each lyric. The track also contains thrilling work from Carnell, plus a memorable, fun chorus. An Araya-like scream begins “Color Me White” and, as if on cue, the rest of the band follows suit into a galloping pace with some hardcore punk elements. An East Coast breakdown partway through makes this a mosh-worthy tune to stand toe-to-toe with Power Trip’s output. I think early Slayer, Dave Lombardo especially, would be proud.
“Into Doom” brings the album’s first really complex song structure. It’s one of my favorite tracks, commencing with some beautifully settled and thoughtful guitar work, like Metallica’s intros for “Fade to Black” and “Nothing Else Matters.” The meaty guitars and solid bass work give this section weight, and the band debuts their excellent clean vocals here, which sound a lot like a young Belladonna. But Impalers aren’t satisfied, so after a solitary guitar shines alone in the apocalyptic night, they gradually push on the gas until the tune closes out with wonderfully screeching dual lead guitars. My only complaint is that some of the most complicated lead guitar work, between the song’s two main sections, is slightly rough. “What is One” takes us back to pure rampaging thrash, with some awesome gang shouts in the chorus. It feels to me like a sped-up, more aggressive version of Anthrax’s material on For All Kings.
“Sun” is the perfect choice for the album’s single, because just as “Terrestrial Demise” perfectly introduced the album, “Sun” perfectly encapsulates it, containing in at least some small way all the album’s strengths. “Believe” is more fist-pumping thrash-to-the-max, those German influences still protruding from Impalers’ sleeves, and then “Celestial Dictator” turns back to complicated song structure, with variously changing time signatures side-by-side particularly nasty growls. I dig that bass near the end too. “Antithesis” closes the album out well, reminding me of some of the best recent output from Slayer, Testament, and Kreator.
The Celestial Dictator‘s nearly perfect 41 minute runtime reveals one of the most consistent, unrelenting, and talent-filled thrash albums I’ve heard this year. It shows a band in love with aggressive metal music, diversified by melodicism and instrumental ingenuity. Impalers have patience and musical maturity to an extent I wouldn’t expect from such a band. They also seem confident in whom they are without the help of any big time producers. Impalers seem, in many ways, self-made.
In addition, Impalers have made it their goal to “enlighten a path for a better world,” as they say in their Facebook biography. They raise many questions, and though they may not answer them all, they’re striving to bring about a discussion. One of the quotes that Impalers seem to like – from Christopher Hitchens – says it all: “Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.” Have we metal philosophers on our hands? Such groups have turned out well in the past. Perhaps they will in the near future, too.
Either way, if bands like Impalers keep coming out with albums like The Celestial Dictator, I think thrash has a real chance at being revived this time. All you other metal acts, watch out for these guys! I think they’ll be doing great things soon, and I already rank them right up there with my favorite current thrash bands.
I’m going to give Impalers’ The Celestial Dictator an 85%.
This is a terrific addition to the growing number of superb thrash albums that just keep coming. Bring ’em on! I’m loving it, and if you are too, grab a copy of The Celestial Dictator and give it a listen.