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Dread Sovereign - All Hell's Martyrs Review

by Matt Hensch

Alan Averill is a guy who, more often than not, knows what he's doing. Perhaps his knowledge and involvement in many metal-related entities is what led to the births of his diversified side projects. Dread Sovereign is, on paper, the most intriguing of Averill's ventures outside the hymns and glories of the wonderful Primordial: an Irish trio dedicated to the classic ways of doom metal, the vocals handled by Nemtheanga himself. At first I really, really enjoyed "All Hell's Martyrs," because it's an epic, colossal display of stomps and dark atmosphere. However, subsequent listens have not been too kind, and thus my infatuation is now more of an indifference. I like "All Hell's Martyrs," but it's a bit too rich for its own good, and at times Dread Sovereign is trying to chew far more than its irreligious jaws can hold. The pieces that slop out are noticeable, of course.

I suppose there were more than a few critics of Twilight of the Gods, Nemtheanga's staunch Manowar-esque project featuring other accomplished members of the black metal sphere. I enjoyed that album they did; it was straightforward and bombastic, pure fun. Nevertheless, "All Hell's Martyrs" is probably more of a natural setting for Averill's vocals, because the music is foreboding and lingering-a sequence inversely proportional to the highflying choruses and structures of Twilight of the Gods. The gloomy venue is a wonderful fit for his vocals, and, as always, his performance and delivery are topnotch. A lot of what he does is mostly similar in tone and pitch to his other work, but Averill kills it again, and it really amazes me how versatile he is as a vocalist.

That's the obvious part, naturally. The real meat and potatoes of "All Hell's Martyrs" is its music, and it's . . . well, hit and miss. Dread Sovereign's style of doom takes cues from the legends-Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Candlemass, etc.-and meshes the slow, lurching riffs into ultra-repetitive, almost dreamy arrangements. It's exceptional stuff when the band smoothly integrates the big, bombing riffs with those dreary rhythms-take "Thirteen Clergy" and "Scourging Iron" as two representatives of Dread Sovereign firing on all cylinders. My strife comes from a few of the album's blockbusters, which are really self-indulgent and just not passable. "Cthulhu Opiate Haze," in its ten minutes and some spare change of running time, is utterly forgettable, and it takes seven minutes before "We Wield the Spear of Longinus" shakes off the cobwebs and finally wakes up.

The worst part of "All Hell's Martyrs" is its closing whopper. Much of its thirteen minutes are a monotonous, droning jam that keeps going and going and going; it throws in the towel seven minutes or so after it should have. The other songs are tolerable, albeit expected, as they stick to similar molds of the record's finer chunks with familiar designs and configurations. "All Hell's Martyrs" is an album of moments; when Dread Sovereign is clicking, the sonic barrage is red hot. It is, however, a streaky and inconsistent affair, stuffed full to the brim with tracks that are too empty and too lacking to run up ten minutes or so of running time. I like the strengths of Dread Sovereign's first full-length album, but the conceptual frame can't hold the weight. Disappointing.

Dread Sovereign - All Hell's Martyrs


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