Metal and nerdery ventures down the same perilous path, ostracising those outside the heavier realm before the music even begins. Dio’s over theatrical Holy Diver for one, power metal’s dragon-centric lore or Amon Amarth’s Viking myth tales—tropes that have bobbed so repeatedly downriver in a longboat that the inevitable waterfall is very welcome.
As you may be able to tell from a title such as Eclipse Of The Dual Moons, Massachusetts’ crossover thrash group High Command also dabbles in wondrous waters for their storytelling element, delving further into their own constructed world of Secartha. But unlike the aforementioned metallers that hinge on flashy arpeggios, ritualistic bellows and farcical nonsense, this foursome are heralds for the better parts of ‘80s thrash, hardcore and death metal. All those torchbearers remain a clear part of their influence; the riffs crunch at blistering pace on the opening title track as whimsical tales are snarled by Kevin Fitzgerald. There’s no pause for breath as screeching dive bombs and finger-taps bombard the eardrums, before groovier downtempos takes hold.
The measured palm-muted chords navigate the path of Immortal Savagery while the first epic seven-minute track Imposing Hammers Of Cold Sorcery takes Emperor’s ice-cold melodies into a fret workout that shares a family tree with ‘00s metalcore throughout its rollicking course. They have their deathened foot base in Florida, but the hands of fellow Massachusetts legends Killswitch Engage, with Salem’s Lovecraftian heritage seeping through the fantastical lyrics. The band themselves seeked to channel Ennio Morricone’s soundtracking capabilities to construct their longer narratives, and Imposing Hammers Of Cold Sorcery holds an air of lawlessness and skullduggery from the best of the Westerns, fading out with an ominous choir into infinity.
The subsequent fade-in of Omniscient Flail Of Infamy sounds similar to Metallica’s Eye of the Beholder, complete with a spoken word passage about death, flames, raging waters and anvils to bolster the medieval darkness. Fortified By Bloodshed sounds similar to, well, the former tracks, while a subdued acoustic opener to Chamber Of Agony adds a beautiful complexion to the china-ringing passages that follow. It makes for a ferocious offering, and its speed changes, riff turns, and operatic chords all provide flavourful variations. Working with Seth Manchester—at the production helm of noise and experimental joy with Lightning Bolt and Battles—High Command’s crisp playing is captured best when they’re having fun with it all.
As far as keeping up their own legendarium, feeding fans of fantasy and thrash alike, this is a fairly successful record filled to the brim with skilful playing and enough exciting musical passages. Crossover thrash is the punkier younger brother of a notorious genre that has achieved metal superstardom, and it seems High Command are doing well to keep its epicness intact while exploring speedier territories. The more immediate tracks Eclipse Of The Dual Moons or Siege Warfare do prove to be the most thrilling, endearing headbanging elixir, but the longer sessions prove perhaps a little too unoriginal to keep the attention throughout.
Its appeal will remain with those already accustomed to wizardry, horsemen, Norsemen and Ktulu, so if alluring mythical quests are your bag, it’s a welcome modern addition to metal’s continued dabbling in sorcery and the occult with crunchy guitars to match. A venture into Secartha awaits thee, brave traveller.
For fans of: early Metallica, Gatecreeper, Enforced
‘Eclipse Of The Dual Moons’ by High Command is released on 25th November on Southern Lord Records.
Words by Elliot Burr