Never let it be said that thrash metal is dead. In a genre dominated by four large bands and many handfuls of copycats for ages, there was real worry for a while that new and exciting material might not arrive to right the ship, bar the occasional stud record tweaking the rudders a little. Then, with very little fanfare, High Command came along and commandeered the vessel. Their 2019 full length debut Beyond the Wall of Desolation infused the familiar thrash rioting with fresh elements while still maintaining that urgent feel throughout, and it was all quite good indeed.
With Eclipse of the Dual Moons following that album in concept, we are once again dropped into the world of Secartha and once again up to our ears in Conan the Barbarian sword and sorcery shenanigans. The musical influences are clear from the off; the title track crashes through the closest wall with enough unrelenting, Metallica-infused power to raise the collective pulse of anyone hearing it. The tempo is frantic, setting the scene of a world under constant threat before slamming the brakes on for chunky, low-end metal grooves that both thrill in the ingenuity of their deployment and will make you learn to love whiplash.
Those sort of neck-breaking drop-offs aren’t the only surprises scattered throughout. “Imposing Hammers of Cold Sorcery” draws on inspiration from a much less likely source, by channelling Old Western vibes a la Ennio Morricone. The clean notes swirl like dusty winds throughout an endlessly creative mashup of early black metal savagery and rip-roaring thrash energy that will have you equal parts tapping your foot appreciatively and bouncing off the nearest person in the pit. Meanwhile, the swaying strings and immaculately sparkling intro to “Chamber of Blood” will lull your sense of security into blissful sleep before putting a hole in your head once the old-school metal riffs and air-raid slides kick in.
But that’s not to say the traditional stuff isn’t done right, either. “Immortal Savagery” leans into that old-school sweet spot hard with big bass riff and even bigger drums and offsets them perfectly with the raspy vocal work, before the Slayer love comes to the fore in the thumping breakdown. There’s seemingly very little that High Command can’t put their hands to and make it work in a big way, old or new and it’s one of the big reasons that Eclipse of the Dual Moons is so consistently excellent.
A special mention for epic closer “Spires of Secartha” here because it’s a simply colossal track. A roiling sea of thrash violence punctuated by towering doom moments and slow, melodic checkpoints that plays with boundaries like a perfect mad scientist. It’s got bits of everything and does it all phenomenally; it’ll stick in your eardrums for months.
Veering from blast beat driven ferocity to chugging, rhythmic grinds with earned confidence, Eclipse of the Dual Moons is a stone cold classic. High Command haven’t so much chiseled their name as they have blasted through the monument to thrash metal greats completely, then ridden off into the sunset on the other side. You’ll be spotting this one in future “Top X Thrash Albums” lists for the next forever. If you can drag yourself away from the album long enough to read them, that is.