Label: Gravplass Propaganda
Even within a genre as extreme and (supposedly) uncompromising as war metal, there are established tropes which are expected to be adhered to by bands playing in that style. Military themes, nihilism, Satanic blasphemy; without these things, is it really war metal? Italian duo Thecodontion make it clear that it’s perfectly possible to reject the visual and lyrical tropes of the style whilst still possessing the all-consuming, destructive atmosphere the genre creates at its best. Thecodontia is a bass-led war metal assault (no guitars!), with lyrical themes including dinosaurs, prehistory, and geologic periods. It’s an unexpected take on the genre, and it’s bloody great.
The influence of bands such as Revenge, Blasphemy, and Antediluvian is clear in Thecodontion’s sound, which really emphasises the grinding nature of war metal; the bass guitar riffs are heavily distorted, and combined with the furious drumming, give the tape the destructive, world-destroying atmosphere that war metal demands. If you’re looking for something aurally punishing, with riffs buried in the raw, murky production, then you’ve come to the right place.
Given that Thecodonia features no guitars at all, it does have quite a distinctive sound. Though the riffs themselves are clearly from the Revenge and Conqueror school of total domination through uncompromising onslaught, the bass-heavy sound helps Thecodontion stand out from their peers, giving them a more raw, dirty feel than most war metal bands could ever achieve. There’s something primitive about their sound, which is only fitting given the subject matter; and whilst that’s something that can be said about much war metal, the gravelly, dirt-filled bass riffs make it apply even more to Thecodontion than it does other war metal bands. There’s also some great solos that rise out of the murk, giving the tracks an extra sense of texture; they may not be as chaotic as most war metal solos, but their almost melodic qualities help to make them more distinctive, and suits the tracks well.
Whilst Thecodonia features four tracks, the distinctions between them don’t really matter – as is expected from war metal, what matters is how the record as a whole sucks the listener in to its atmosphere, and keeps you held there for its duration. On that count, Thecodonia is an absolute success, taking the listener not to some war-torn battlefield or Satanic temple, but instead to prehistoric swamps. The album also benefits from the songs being relatively short (three of the four tracks are less than three minutes long), giving the tape an energy that isn’t far removed from punk and grind.
Though there’s still a few rough edges to Thecodonia, for a debut release it is very impressive, displaying a strong understanding of what it is that makes war metal such a compelling style of music. It’s the kind of music that can only be made by people who are utterly unconcerned with how it will be received, and yet are also more than confident enough with what they have created to put it out there for the world to see. Even within the already extreme world of war metal, this feels like a release and band that is uncompromising. It’s a very exciting release, and I can’t wait to hear what the duo unearth for their next record.