Review by Fernando on September 14, 2023.
Blackened death metal, or black/death, or death/black, or however you want to call it, is a very interesting hybrid subgenre in extreme metal. At first it was primarily just a basic fusion of death metal vocals and riffs with black metal but the subgenre has certainly expanded on a worldwide scale. Some bands would prefer to just be called one or the other, but for better or worse, the public ends up making that call. Enter Kommandant, an American band that certainly has the markings of a black/death band, being very fast, very aggressive and with an appropriately dark yet subdued atmosphere underneath the wailing vocals and blast beats. The band have been around for almost 2 decades and have been displaying their brutal music in a consistent manner, and in 2023 they unleashed their fifth full length Titan Hammer, through Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum.
Now, Kommandant is a band I was vaguely familiar with in passing, and decided to check this record as a formal introduction to these guys. That decision ended up being a good one, since this record was a pleasant surprise. I tend to be very selective when it comes to black/death metal, as a lot of bands tend to have a detrimental uniform sound. That wasn’t the case for Kommandant, as my first impression of this record is how this is a black metal band and their death metal leanings are more a seasoning to make the music much more intense. Particularly in the production, this is a surprisingly well produced record, it sounds very good and all the instruments pop, and it doesn’t sound artificial. The bass in particular was my favorite instrument from beginning to end, and it goes without saying that all the instruments and individual performances are excellent and consistent.
Obviously many keen eared people will hear similarities to Marduk, the band themselves don’t shy away from that influence, from the blisteringly fast drumming and speedy riffs, it’s definitely there, but Kommandant do a good job creating their own sound, especially if they’re now on their fifth outing. On a more specific level and the reason why this album pleasantly surprised me is how the band manage to make their music sound very brutal and intense, but they also have a sense of atmosphere that not many bands of this style have, the album sounds and feels dark, very dark. It's actually hard to put into words, but the best examples of this are the opening song ‘The Arrival’ and ‘Sublimation Of Resistance’ which are also the best tracks in the record. There’s a careful balance of keeping the music brutal, but without discarding a grim and sinister atmosphere that you would’ve heard in more traditional Norwegian black metal, furthermore, the band fully display and flex their atmospheric tendencies of the 3 minute, instrumental track ‘Spannungsfelder’, which also follows the aforementioned ‘Sublimation Of Resistance’, and overall, it is that sense of dark atmosphere and willingness to let the music breathe for extended sections without vocals that truly made this record a very refreshing experience.
Now, obviously this record isn’t some grand revelation of uniqueness, since there are other bands within both black and death metal that also use atmosphere to their advantage, but that doesn’t take away how well executed and implemented those atmospherics are in this record. The band could’ve easily phoned another fast and brutal record to add to the ever growing pile of Marduk and Zyklon-B influenced bands, but they didn’t, and this record is proof of that. My only real criticism is that the record is very uniform, with the exception of the sixth instrumental track the record doesn’t really deviate from the sound it starts. That’s not to say it’s a bad sound, Kommandant absolutely play to their strengths, but subsequent listens aren’t as fresh and impactful as the first, but then again, nothing really is. And to close, the other great track here, and one that serves as a perfect taster of the record as a whole is its closing track ‘Mechanized Annihilator’, in here the band hones in on every single strong point of the album, but I still do recommend listening to the whole thing from beginning to end.
Overall, Kommandant are a really good band and do a great job at standing out in what at times feels like a sea of clones, if anything, Kommandant proves that some of the old tricks and formulas of the past can still be fresh if done properly and with some ingenuity. An easy recommendation for any fan of brutal and dark metal.
Best tracks: ‘The Arrival’, ‘Sublimation Of Resistance’, ‘Mechanized Annihilator’
Rating: 8.5 out of 10387