Dethrone the Sovereign have been beavering away since 2008, releasing a couple of fairly well-received EPs, most recently 2013’s Autocracy Dismantled. 2017 sees the band unleashing their debut album Harbingers of Pestilence, and, despite being tagged as technical deathcore by some and progressive metal by others, it has far more in common with some strange hybrid of the two. The album starts innocuously enough with ‘Eye of Deception Pt 1’, immediately followed by part 2.
Opening with a subdued clean guitar, things don’t exactly get off to a rip-roaring start and it absolutely works for the band. This is an album, that despite being very much a deathcore album, has far more nuance and subtlety than could be expected of the majority of their peers. In a market contrast from such an opener, vocals do enter from about the 1.15 mark, which given that track lengths are kept short, is a little over a third of the way through proceedings. The band balances Protest the Hero-style fretboard acrobatics with the kind of breakdowns you’d expect to hear on a Suicide Silence or Whitechapel record. There is, as typical of the genre, both guttural vocals and higher shrieks, often overlaid on one another, with higher screams taking prominence. This is my first major niggle with the record; the vocals are by no means bad, but they are uninspired and do nothing to set the band apart from the scene at large; the higher vocals sound almost strained, whereas the guttural growls and roaring sound altogether more forceful and menacing.
The progressive/technical end of things clearly comes from a love of Tesseract style of djent; in fact if you’ve heard anything from any djent stable, you’ve heard this guitar tone and riffing style before, but this time it’s had deathcore screams injected in as opposed to the more usual crooning.
The instrumentation, on the other hand, is stellar. The band deftly moves from more typical chugging breakdowns or djent-y riffing to segments where far more lush soundscapes open up, such as on the instrumental half of the opener, second track ‘Era of Deception Pt 2’ which swirls and flows deftly around the listener. ‘Apostasy’ is the second instrumental track on the album, coming just before the penultimate number, and is again an album highlight for the variety on display. Orchestral and even occasional choral elements can be found amongst the chaos, not only providing reprieve from the bludgeoning of the rest of the album but showcasing a truly diverse palette of influence.
Sadly, it’s not all deathcore sunshine and rainbows, with the song structures being the second major sticking point; despite the variety of influences and the lush soundscapes of the musical interludes, when the band is in the usual bludgeoning groove, there is nothing particularly outstanding occurring; ideas aren’t massively fresh nor does the album manage to break any ground that hasn’t already been trodden by their forebears.
That said the songs are engaging and it’s great to see a band that knows the value of self-editing, with not a single track breaking the five-minute mark, and the whole album clocking in at just over 33 minutes. At no point does any idea or movement outstay its welcome, no interlude seems superfluous and songs end before the many, many breakdowns get a chance to grow stale as can so often be the case. Closer ‘Perennial Eclipse’ is another album highlight for these very reasons; deftly balancing orchestral nuance with skull-crushing brutality, the band melds something special that sounds as a culmination of the preceding eight songs.
Highlights: Era of Deception Pt 2, The Vitruvian Augmentation, Perennial Eclipse