Review: Heretic Warfare

Heretic Warfare Hell on Earth

Listening to Hell on Earth, the aptly titled new disc by the Münster death metal band Heretic Warfare, is an extremely jarring experience. It’s not just a matter of the music itself (blistering straight ahead death metal delivered at about 1000 mph). You’ve really got to wonder how one comes to listen to this. I find myself asking, “How did we all get to this place?” It’s not just that normal people wouldn’t enjoy this. They simply wouldn’t understand it.

Modern death metal was for the best part of two decades engaged in a kind of arms race to see who could kick the speedometer up to the most extreme levels. Starting with bands like Napalm Death, Repulsion, and others in the scenes whose mutual influence spawned both the extreme death metal and grindcore subgenres, the idea of speed for speed’s sake became ingrained in the culture. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the relevant history can easily recite the stations of the (upside down) cross.

At a certain point one starts to experience diminishing returns, and not just in terms of speed. I have a hard time imagining something noticeably more soul-crushing than Ulcerate. I have a pretty high tolerance for this sort of thing, but even I have a hard time getting all the way through Shrines of Paralysis. Which is not to say that it isn’t great, just that it’s so far beyond the bounds of normal music that it takes a lot to parse.

Heretic Warfare do not get to the edge of that particular abyss. Their approach is very much along the lines of bands like (just to pick a name) Oath of Cruelty. They jump out of the grave and onto your chest, kicking the air out of your lungs and refusing to let you inhale. This is unapologetic war metal, marching through rivers of blood with piles of corpses reaching to the sky.

The really crazy thing about this disc is that it gets more intense as it goes along. “Warfare on the Heretic Scum,” the opener, sounds like someone took Dead to this World and gave them a crystal meth enema. And it just gets crazier from there. It’s like they recorded the first one and we like, “Yeah, that was cool, but it’s not fast enough and definitely needs more blast beats.”

You have to respect a band that is willing to pack so much shit into their songs. They switch back and forth from power chords to notes. Then they’ll just stop and do something completely off kilter for a few bars. They’re a little like Anata in the sense that they seem to want to pack half again as much material into each song as perhaps needs to be there. But the cumulative effect is like sticking your face up against a belt sander, and it’s hard to argue with that as an artistic theory.

There is a point at which extremity passes over into unlistenability. Heretic Warfare have, I think, very much hit the sweet spot. This is blistering, unrelenting death metal, but it’s the kind of thing that you (or at least I) want to listen to rather than feeling like I have to get through it in order to maintain my extreme music credibility (although I guess that’s long gone anyway).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: