Eastern Front - Descent into Genocide [Candlelight Records - 2014]As an American, my education with regards to WWII’s eastern front has always been lacking, no doubt stemming from the fact that America’s involvement in the eastern front is negligible at best. It’s a shame, really, because Russia’s war with Germany is way, way more interesting. From the massive tank battles on the plains of Kursk to the bloody battle for Stalingrad, the eastern front was an awe inspiring theater, ultimately ending with over eleven million dead. Given that war, death, and destruction are favored themes of metal, the eastern front seems like a goldmine for metal band. Strangely enough, I can’t bring to mind a single band that has covered it extensively. Well, thankfully we have the UK’s Eastern Front to fill that gap for us.
Formed by Holocaust in 2006, Eastern front released a pair of demos before signing to Candlelight for the release of their debut full-length Blood on Snow. Now, four years later, the band loads its Panzerfaust for yet another WWII inspired black metal attack with Descent into Genocide.
The album opener, “Retribution Sky,” begins with several seconds of glorious military music before the shriek of a low-flying plane comes in. Then a literal explosion is heard, accompanied by an explosion of noise consisting of a scream, savage black metal riffing, and thundering drums. Much of the rest of the album follows in a similar vein as the opener: cold tremolo riffs, commanding rasps, and rapid-fire drumming. The guitar tone isn’t absolutely frigid like many bands, but the coldness captures the bleak atmosphere of never-ending warfare quite well. The riffing is generally standard black metal tremolos, but “Katyn Forest” and “Ghouls of Leningrad” feature sections of death metal riffing. Every riff on the album is high quality, with the foreign chord progressions on “Ghouls of Leningrad” being the highlight of the album. Nagant’s favored vocal style is not unusual for the genre, but his hateful rasps and shrieks are unusually commanding. Like a demonic platoon leader, Nagant’s spiteful direct the ebb and flow of the black metal assault on Descent into Genocide. On tracks like “Blitzfreeze” and the previously mentioned “Ghouls of Leningrad,” these rasps are accompanied by death metal styled growls, making for a forceful combination.
With any black metal project covering WWII, there exists the possibility that the band promotes Nazi ideals. Though such lyrics don’t make me write off those bands immediately, I do understand and respect those who refuse to listen to such music on moral grounds. However, I have detected no hints of Nazism or anti-Semitism on Descent into Genocide. The lyrics range from general war lyrics to specific ones about the Katyn Forest Massacre, in which Soviet NKVD murdered 22,000 Polish officers and civilians in mass executions. No NSMB here.
Every member of Eastern Front gives a professional performance on Descent into Genocide. The musicianship is extremely tight, with no missed notes, falters, or stumbles. The production and mixing are solid as well. Great songwriting is also on display here, and the album flows well and is varied enough to be engaging for the 52 minute runtime. The whole album is an awesome exercise in how to do black metal right. It stays within the confines of the genre without being stale or a watered-down copy. Descent into Genocide is a sweet album and Eastern Front is a band to watch for in the years to come. Tyler L.