Reviewed: [September 2019]
Released [2019 Fólkvangr Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
A mashup of old-school Swedish-style death metal and primal Norwegian-hewn black metal may be about the last thing one might expect of a band from the U.S. East Coast. Yet that’s a reasonably apt/convenient comparison for the debut full-length from Philly phanatics Polemicist.
Perhaps even more surprising is it all pretty much works, even as the band delve into Nietzschian philosophizing for the narrative thread on Zarathustrian Impressions, which I won’t even try to begin to explain. But no bother. You can read “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is you’re that curious.
Chances are you’re going to miss most of the thematic subtleties anyway here, given guitarist/frontman Josiah Domico’s scabrous, often indecipherable, shriek. But that was never much of a concern with the likes of Emperor, and it shouldn’t be here, either.
After the suitably mysterious and atmospheric intro, the quartet let loose with “Concerning The Rabble,” with is gritty, slashing main riff bird-dogged by a wash of trebly trem guitar, something quartet do with great effect throughout the album. It gives the material plenty of death metally teeth go with the black metal shrill, especially given the mostly furious tempos at which the band operate. Indeed, though the intro hints at a potentially symphonic air, these guys – and gal, in guitarist Lydia Giordano – opt for pedal to the metal here over pomp and circumstance.
Highlights here are many, like the blazing “The Convalscent” and its trem sweeps that echo Emperor’s majestic “The Loss and Curse of Reverence,” the nifty tangle of harmony guitars on “Revenge of the Tarantulas,” the atypically shreddy lead work in “On Redemption,” and the exhausting, manic rhythms of bassist Sam Zettell and Jacob Nunn throughout. They sure can bring it, and they lay the perfect foundation for the fleet fingered/bone-sawing guitar histrionics of Domico and Giordano.
Zarathustrian Impressions makes, well, quite a first impression for Polemicist. Though the band only teamed up two years ago, their debut’s combination of lofty ideals, deft execution and ass-ripping material demonstrates the guile and purpose of far more veteran act – and perhaps one from the other side of the world.