On their new album, Ares Kingdom have traded the anthemic qualities of their first three albums for a deliberately spacier and obscure sound. Appropriately, the band has mined its own past for inspiration; as on Order from Chaos‘ farewell An Ending In Fire and previous side-project Vulpecula, the themes on this album are astronomical, tracing constellations and star clusters across the night sky and connecting them with their etymologies in mythology. The approach proves a natural fit for the Ares Kingdom sound which, despite its roots in speed metal, has always evoked in the abstract the rise and ruin of great endeavors. It is also a tacit acknowledgement of the deep-seated human need to balance the secular with what Robert Graves described as the mythopoetical, in the absence of which the one becomes pedantic and the other fluff.
The guitar tone on By The Light Of Their Destruction is fat in the middle and dissipates progressively towards the edges, which, to use a fitting celestial analogy, is not unlike the sun’s corona jutting out from behind a lunar occultation. The effect is decidedly ambient in the sense of a broad wash of static bleeding into the music at all times. It also signals a departure from the songwriting approach of at least the last two albums; where songs on those were structured along conventional heavy metal formats, and built around identifiable melodies, By The Light Of Their Destruction feels looser on purpose and instinctive in nature. It is a fine example of what I like to think of as “body metal”, something the Miller-Keller combine has always excelled at. Think ‘Angry Red Planet‘ or the breakdown in ‘Forsake Me This Mortal Coil‘. The cue here is to ride a groove and a riff for all its worth, not because of a shortage of ideas or as a gratuitous end in itself, but as a very real form of psychosomatic release. To enter this pocket of expression is to become a vessel and a servitor to whatever channels musical inspiration works through; to relinquish it prematurely feels like self-mutilation.
In the band’s trajectory, however, By The Light Of Their Destruction will occupy a curious place. It is mostly without the rousing highs of Incendiary or the greater melodic accessibility of The Unburiable Dead. Neither is it made to sound of a piece as a suite of songs like those albums. The straight line of progression from Return To Dust to The Unburiable Dead appears broken, but perhaps this is a mixed blessing: lamentable, because seemingly lost is the pinnacle of album-wide cohesion and narrative achieved on The Unburiable Dead; welcome, however, is the resurgence of a more feral vibe. Whether this is because, as word goes, these songs were based on ideas culled from old demos is for the band to answer, but the way forward will require a balancing act of some skill.