By Adrien Begrand
The fact that the much-ballyhooed debut album by Blood Revolt is generating vehement reactions from the metal world shouldn’t be much of a surprise. And you know it’s the kind of reaction Alberta black metal mainstays C. Ross and James Read wanted when they formed a trans-Atlantic artistic partnership with Primordial proselytizer Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill. One one side, you’ve got underground metal scenesters who can make neither heads nor tails of all that damned singing atop the scorching backdrop of raw black metal provided by the two members of Axis of Advance and Revenge. On the other side are the Primordial fans that are so starved for a new album that they’ll listen to anything Averill lends his voice to. Needless to say, hearing the man contribute to something so unflinching, so confrontational had to have been the last thing they expected. Where are the 6/8 time signatures, dammit!
It’s a weird, weird combination, that’s for sure, but in the end, once we’re able to let such an unconventional record settle in, Indoctrine turns out to be a surprisingly effective, powerful piece of work. Musically, this is basically an extension of what Ross and Read have been doing together for years, only this time around the quality of the recording is crisper than we’re used to. Not clean, necessarily, but rather bearing a sharpness that has Ross’s deceptively melodic, tremelo-picked riffs slicing through the air. Better yet, this is a fantastic showcase for Read, who puts on an absolute clinic in black metal drumming, flailing away like muppet Animal on meth, rapid-fire, falling-down-the-stairs fills punctuating every track. It’s the kind of organic, groovy drumming that constantly flirts with completely going off the rails but never does; as a result we are riveted as Read propels the music with maniacal velocity.
Then there’s Averill, who takes the eight compositions and superimposes a rather unique tale told from the point of view of a terrorist. Vocally he’s in typically fine form, but although he’s his usual commanding presence, singing out his lyrics with fervour, it’s not about the melodic hooks whatsoever. Anyone who listens to Indoctrine expecting melodies by Averill is missing the point of the record completely. There’s a liturgical solemnity in the way he delivers his lines, exuding the blind, unwavering faith of an extremist. Okay, he does go a little overboard on “Bite the Hand, Purge the Mind” with his over-the-top exhortations of “I’m losing my fucking mind!“, but chalk that up to a vocalist completely throwing himself into this demented persona, which Averill does with relish. Overall, he paints a fascinating portrait of a human being’s psychological downward spiral, and by the time the album reaches its startlingly moving denouement, we’re transfixed.
Averill’s presence and the musical chemistry of Ross and Read gels most effectively on the eight minute “My Name in Blood Across the Sky”. Ross’s riffing, when not deceptively catchy, channels the atonality of Voivod, while Read’s drumming during the first half of the track are absolutely frenetic. Meanwhile Averill sings deliciously melodramatic lines with operatic glee: “What fresh hell is this / That we make for ourselves / Cut from the cloth of Judas / And the poisoned apple bite.” When the song devolves into a funeral doom dirge and Averill play the theatricality to the hilt, we’re in this band’s hands, committed to hear this strange, dark, extraordinary tale all the way through.