Like heavy metal, the planet Mars has power that doesn't wither. Fools say metal and Mars have nothing to offer, save irony and frozen water. The informed know better. On Mars (NoVisible Scars, 2009), Olympus Mons houses ancient theocracy, the canals run with blood, and the music mixes double amounts of Slough Feg and Sodom with the Realm of Chaos the cover implies.

Few bands meld classic and death metal yet remain this breathless. The melody in these songs is never pretty. Tracks like "The Gods Themselves" charge forward with double bass and saber-wielding Celtic riffs. People are subjugated and rebellions are quelled. Elsewhere, death and thrash take precedent, and the results are equally powerful. "Spearhead from Space" is a blitzkrieg for the heart of Mars: it only lasts two minutes, yet mangles its victims for life. The album seldom relents. Occasionally, the music lapses into doom, as though surveying the landscape in horror, but it always recovers and rushes onward.

Crucially, Scorched-Earth refuse to treat the concept as a joke. The idea of war on Mars is adolescent stuff, and that's part of its appeal. Mars could have been condescending bullshit, full of apologetic winks or cheap intellectualism. Instead, Scorched-Earth take their concept seriously and deliver soulful metal. Like great science fiction, the story feels relevant but resists allegory. An ancient civilization entices a young and naive one into imperialist war. Humans and Martians are both villains. Oligarchy reigns, and the sane die.

— Anthony Abboreno
Artwork by Sean McGrath