This is what Boudicca would have had on her mixtape. Of the many permutations of metal, thrash (and it’s all sub-variants of it) is one where sounding ‘authentic’ can pair up with sounding the same as everyone else very quickly.
So how do you change? Songs about war and ‘insufferable brutality’ paired with predictable build ups, breakdowns and tremolo bar heavy solos have been written by many of the greats already. A return to core thrash values isn’t going to do it anymore.
High Command refer to themselves as a cross-over thrash band, but they are a bit more than that. They’re darker and more atmospheric, thanks to a healthy interest in Bathory, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate and the love of swords. They also say Italian composer Ennio Morricone – known for writing the theme music to The Good The Bad and The Ugly – is an influence in their writing. Arguably this comes through in the cover art, showing lone horseman standing in front of a desert landscape.
The result is a band with a distinct look and feel. They might identify with the likes of Toxic Holocaust but we’re in a different ballgame here. There is less chaos for chaos’s sake, fewer NWOMBH riff references, no soaring vocals. It’s all grit and grind.
Eclipse Of The Dual Moons is a headbangers paradise. High-energy chugging triplets enter and stay throughout. High Command change direction like a well-oiled machine, always uncompromising, always heavy. Vocalist Kevin Fitzgerald jumps into tracks like an enraged Conan The Barbarian falling on his enemies while sounding every bit as harsh and abrasive as guitarists Ryan McArdle, Mike Bonetti and bassist Chris Berg.
Eclipse Of The Dual Moons is a headbangers paradise…
What makes this album so good is there is no filler. No playing for time, no pointless intros or samples that we don’t need to hear, no tableaus of riffs that don’t go anywhere. There are a couple of streamlined, seamless instrumentals at the beginning of a couple of tracks, but they work well thanks to legendary producer Seth Manchester. Every track is carefully sculpted and perfected with drummer Ryan Pitz leading the incredibly tight shifts from one section to the next.
Speaking of writing, the song writing has a huge conceptual element that the band have been working on since their early demos, which is their setting of Secartha. Born from a love of speculative sci-fi and fantasy authors Jack Vance, Robert E Howard and Michael Moorecock, you get glimpses into High Command’s Secartha in some of the voice overs, revealing its raw, violent mystical energy. Conceptual thinking works when the idea it fully thought through – Atramentus’ Stygian in 2020 set the bar high, but it’s not a problem for High Command.
In practical terms, this means the band have developed a powerful concept to explore the stories of Secartha through their music. Some of the richness of the setting opens up the storytelling and creativity of the longer tracks on the album, namely Imposing Hammers Of Cold Sorcery and Spires Of Secartha, which is no small accomplishment.
May Secartha reign eternal.
Scribed by: James Bullock