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Halberd : Remnants Of Crumbling Empires

Halberd's debut offers an interesting and original journey that takes in both slow sorrowfulness and brutal devastation.

From the opening grunt and groove of opening track ‘Northern Bloodletting’ it is evident that Halberd – and in particular songwriter Charles Wong - have enjoyed a few Celtic Frost albums. But there is much more to be discovered on this rewarding 40-minute opus. There is some of the abysmal horror of Triptykon in this expansive death-doom release, as well as the manic ugliness of Morbid Angel, the meaty pounding of Bolt Thrower, the twisted adventure of The Monolith Death Cult, and the cutting edge of Entombed. These influences and sounds join together to create an unholy battalion with one purpose: destruction.

Halberd play high-quality death-doom with a strong emphasis on the death. The second track, ‘Barghash’s Poison’, for example, is all-out 1990s pace and power. They charge through battle-ravaged ruins like demented war journalists reporting stories of pain, torment and loss. Amidst the blood-soaked bleakness, moments of unexpected creativity are thrown in like hand grenades: a soaring guitar solo or inventive use of synthesizers. The keyboard work on the aforementioned opener is intermittent but very effective, creating deeply evocative echoes of violence and sorrow between the faster sections. In truth, the keyboards could be used more liberally to expand the effect further still.

Halberd is an international project featuring musicians from a number of different countries, making it all the more impressive that ‘Remnants Of Crumbling Empires’ is so tight and textured. The production is sharp and dynamic, helping to create a rich and frankly evil sound. Even the programmed drums, which can often sound lifeless, add a clattering, rumbling energy that resembles some gigantic war machine approaching in top gear with all guns blazing.

There are not many memorable riffs on offer that cut through the thick smoke and stench of the battlefield. Three of the four songs, such as the dissonant, terrifying 15-minute epic ‘Dead Horses Cavalry’, are elongated, anguished dirges, laden with misery and pock-marked with brutal up-tempo passages. The vocals switch between a tortured Gollum and a deep, menacing growl, and are deployed sparingly to allow the guitars to cast their sinister spells.

Halberd’s ‘Remnants Of Crumbling Empires’ is a gloriously dark and atmospheric album. At times, it feels like a nuclear missile that’s out of control, spiralling through the air on an unpredictable voyage of brutal devastation. At others, it’s a slow and sorrowful journey of epic proportions. And from start to finish, it is interesting, original and enjoyable.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Northern Bloodletting
2. Barghash’s Poison
3. Ignorance Of Morbidity
4. Dead Horses Cavalry

Duration : Approx. 40 minutes

Visit the Halberd bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-08-02 by Steve Bidmead
Aesthetic Death
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