PICK OF THE WEEK: High Command weave tales from Secartha into thrash on vicious ‘…Dual Moons’

Two things that solidified my love all of things metallic were heaviness and storytelling, both of which hooked me into the style of music I write about multiple times per week. Thrash metal was the first thing that drove me into more aggressive sounds, yet the adventures spun by Iron Maiden, Dio, Queensrÿche and bands of that ilk locked in the fantastical elements. Unbreakable bond solidified.

From the time I came to know of them, thrashers High Command checked off all the boxes, delivering a sound that feels transported from the ’80s heyday but with their own edge and a world they created that is the center point for their music. Their second record “Eclipse of the Dual Moons” is a massive late-year treasure, an eight-track, 48-minute excursion into the world of Secartha (the concept is similar to Immortal’s Blashyrkh) and the events and chaos abound in that place. The band—vocalist Kevin Fitzgerald, guitarists Ryan McArdle and Mike Bonetti, bassist Chris Berg, drummer Ryan Pitz—deliver mashing goodness, staying true to the roots of the subgenre but adding their own mark to their formula. I’ve loved everything this band has put out to date, and this record is another massive high point.

The title track gets things starting, rampaging in and opening a wild pace. This is thrash. The real shit. You can just feel it in your bones. “The sky will collapse into madness, the rift will emerge beneath the eclipse of the dual frost moons,” Fitzgerald howls as gut punches land, the guitars catch fire, and everything ends as viciously as possible. “Immortal Savagery” chugs in as menacing vocals slice, and a calculated drive amplifies the menace. The playing speeds up and warps your brain, the chorus punishes, and wild howls belt as things naturally bleed into “Imposing Hammers of Cold Sorcery” that smashes right away. Guitars dice as the throaty howls bring you to your knees, the leads spiraling before the guitars detonate. Speed takes off as the devastation increases, the howls getting meatier, the playing more aggressive, and the spoken calls to the warriors of Secartha chilling you to the bone as the battle plans are set. “Omniscient Flail of Infamy” fades in, feeling like an homage to Metallica’s old tricks, and then a letter from Veeanithzar is read as the world crumbles. The storm lands and makes its presence felt, vicious power leads, and everything ignites, fighters crushing enemies in front of them and making the violence worth the effort.

“Fortified By Bloodshed” has organs blazing and the band pumping your blood with vintage thrashing, dark forces uniting and carrying the energy into war. “Strengthened by violence, fortified by the souls of those that died, summoned from death to kill again,” Fitzgerald wails as the intensity somehow increases, twin guitar lines glimmer, and the final howls send you for a loop. “Chamber of Agony” begins with acoustic strains as the darkness spreads, wallowing in misery before explosions leave you gutted. Dark, cloudy synth creates strange visions, the playing snakes and spirals, and muscular howls bruise as everything comes to a vicious end. “Siege Warfare” speeds and stomps with horror, shrieks killing, and a simple chorus of, “Siege warfare!” make for something shouted back energetically live. Soloing explores and lights up the sky, the playing goes for broke, and muscles are put to the test before finally relenting. Closer “Spires of Secartha” is the longest track, running 11:59 and slowly dawning. Another frosty dialog sets the scene as the playing gets aggressive and punishing, storming and ripping through the mounting assault. Defiance is thick as Fitzgerald vows the spires will not fall and will remain standing long past their enemies draw breath, calling, “Time to die, you will crumble beneath my wrath.” The pace is hammering and relentless, and then victory bells begin to chime, acoustic passages rise, and somber strings add an element of finality, bringing on an elegant finish that glimmers in the atmosphere.

High Command’s second full serving of tales from Secartha is a rousing, excellent serving of thrash and storytelling, something the masters always do so well. “Eclipse of the Dual Moons” is an apocalyptic, violent, and righteous tale that’ll challenge you physically and mentally, stretching you to your limit. It’s not easy to find great thrash records that understand the spirit of the style and also leave the artist’s fingerprints, but High Command do that here with great precision and power, weaving a fantasy world of their making into which you’re easily pulled in for the fight.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/HighCommand

To buy the album, go here: https://southernlord.com/store/high-command-eclipse-of-the-dual-moons/

For more on the label, go here: https://southernlord.com/