Once more into the breach comes Spearhead with a thunderous wall of English death metal. Since their well-received 2005 debut "Deathless Steel Command", Spearhead has put time towards live performances and paused to assess their own particular brand of extreme metal. They return now with a re-formulation of their sound that abandons virtually any trace of their earlier blackened style. "Decrowning the Irenarch" is instead a 38 minute barrage of crushing war metal that is somewhat reminiscent of early Bolt Thrower. Or later Bolt Thrower for that matter. They are both quite similar.
As a complete album, "Decrowning The Irenarch" works exceptionally well. The tracks "Prolegomenon" and "Interregnum" establish the two halves of the album, and offer a brief respite before the second assault gets underway. When it does, the pace reverts back to face-ripping ferocity with precision double kicks and deathrash rhythms from Vortigern. Aside from the brutal percussion, every track contains a mass of riffage and spontaneous evolving ideas which hark back to the time before death metal became bored with its own form. Nephilim performs jagged, wandering solos dripping with harmonics and lightning shreds through an assortment of classic tones. Although only two of the tracks ever break the five minute mark, you couldn't ask for more. This is relentless.
It is also a complex recording which only reveals its true depth with repeated listens. The Latin and Greek subjects along with the sampled Shakespeare monologue explore classical themes directly and lyrically while avoiding the vapid posturing of many pseudo-intellectual metal elitists. There is even a nod to Bach's fugues buried within Nephilim's solo on "In the Face of the Absolute".
Along with a move away from the black metal sound there has been a deliberate improvement to the production also. Recorded in Poland at Hertz Studio, the result is a wide, crisp and extremely loud final mix. The kicks attack with a "click" rather than a "blat", and reinforce the audible bass. The separate guitar lines are spacious and never bleed into the vocal's territory. When things really kick off, there is some noticeable clipping, just to remind the listener that this is still an underground release, but otherwise the main impression is of a very clinical recording.
"Decrowning The Irenarch" is a bold step forward for Spearhead who are clearly intent on stepping up to the big leagues of death metal. This second album could quite easily be their ticket there. It is worthy of your attention.