When any album carries the tag of blackened death metal I get a bit leery before hearing it; as any fan knows, Behemoth have pretty much cornered this category, and have done so with amazing gusto. So it’s quite the surprise to hear an album within the genre that calms those fears—one that, while staying true to the main foundations of blackened death, does things a little differently and does them well. Such is the case with The Sword and the Dagger, the latest offering from France’s The Order of Apollyon.
At this point, the only original member left from the band’s 2010 debut, The Flesh, is former Aosoth member B.S.T., and having new members join the fold has clearly breathed new life into the band. While The Flesh was good, this new release is miles ahead. Over its eleven-song run, The Sword and the Dagger tells the tale of humankind destroying the Earth and having to face the anger of the gods as penance.
After a short militarized march intro, we jump into the thrashy-sounding “Hatred Over Will,” which blazes into your ears right out of the gate with loud, fast-paced drums and a few well placed riffs. The vocals are what you would expect in this genre: growled and rarely straying from the death metal style, but definitely not overpowering. “Our Flowers are the Sword and the Dagger” kicks things into a higher gear and also finds room for several high-pitched solos that do a great job showcasing the guitarists’ abilities.
The next track, “Al ‘ankabout,” creates a Middle Eastern flavor with cymbals and a sitar arrangement in the early going, then brings the pain for the rest of the duration. Once again, S.K.’s drumming is the highlight, with his vicious attack pummeling you throughout. We get four more tracks in a similar style, and two short ambient tracks that help set the tone of the world’s impending collapse. “Chants of Purification” sounds like a mountain is crumbling around you; if your volume’s turned up loud enough, it starts to feel as if you’re actually in an avalanche.
Among the remaining tracks, “Eight Pillars” best showcases the band’s talents, devoting equal time black and death metal and catching the waves of a slower tempo right into faster, thrashier sections as the track goes on. We close with “Omnis Honor Et Gloria,” which in Latin translates to “all glory and honor.” At more than nine and a half minutes, it’s the longest track on the album, and perfectly reflects the title with a background layer of atmospherics behind a wall of drums, guitars and vocals. As the track plays out, we get a couple of minutes of silence, before then capping things off with a return to the military cadence from the beginning.
Overall, The Sword and the Dagger is a step up from The Flesh. While not entirely original in style, it is an excellent effort from The Order of Apollyon that will beg repeat listens for any fans of this genre. Or, really…for anyone who just otherwise likes their music loud and fast.