by Anthony Abboreno

In the '80s and '90s, Order from Chaos created raw death-thrash brimming with social discontent. When Order from Chaos split up in 1996, bass guitarist and vocalist Pete Helmkamp went on to found Angelcorpse, while guitarist Chuck Keller and drummer Mike Miller started Ares Kingdom. Of the two, Ares Kingdom has been the less prolific by far, producing three EP's and only two full-lengths, Return to Dust and now Incendiary (Nuclear War Now!, 2010). Their patience has paid off, as both albums are excellent.

Abandon in Place

Much like Order from Chaos, the music of Ares Kingdom stands between death and thrash, albeit with considerably more complex songwritingt. Blasted vocals resound amidst a torrent of heavy riffing, but while the overall aesthetic fits within metallic traditions, the songwriting is too inventive to be genre study. Ares Kingdom's songs seek their own glory: they evolve with their subject matter, hammer you with d-beat-laden riffs, break down into chaos and uncertainty, and then perservere. Witness a tour de force like "Abandon in Place," in which the music builds in intensity as the lyrics become more dire, until halfway through, when everything collapses. Radio broadcasts float through space, and then, slowly, the music drags itself to its feet and trudges onward.

Chuck Keller is the primary creative force behind Ares Kingdom, and in interviews has stated that the lyrics are often as important a component of his writing process as the music. Incendiary bears that out. The ideas are much the same as on Return to Dust, although the songs get into more detail, and are more carefully interwoven in terms of theme. Incendiary portrays a world in which demagoguery and complacence lead to destruction. Images of serpents, grace, and the Garden of Eden reappear in an album that begins with religious extermism and closes with nuclear war. Dogma kills because it blinds and weakens: "Pronounce the living dead / Yet still fear the remains / Piety digs a necropolis for the future." While the world we're in might be doomed, depending on how you decide to respond, that might not be as bleak a picture as it seems: "The realization that your throne is an illusion / A liberation and a challenge / Stand in awe or fall to your knees and grieve."

The world looks pretty dire right now, and I'm sitting pretty compared to most people. Incendiary feels relevant and refuses to turn into the dogma it rails against. Ares Kingdom won't placate listeners with nostalgia or easy answers, but they will urge them to go on.