The raging gas masked war-machine from Chicago are back. I have been faithfully following musical orders from Kommandant since they sent in their 2010 EP Kontakt, a couple of albums have followed and the band have collaborated on a host of splits with the likes of Nominon, Aosoth, Animus Mortis & Minenwerfer. Blood Eel is their fourth album and sees the rabid beast really up the tempo in ferocious style. The line-up has been an ever revolving one and it appears that many in the band have been summarily executed through the years and the core remaining generals comprise of Jim Bresnahan and Patrick McCormick, details however seem sketchy on this and there are about 100 bands that past and present members have been affiliated with. Listed in some quarters as playing death, black and thrash elements Kommandant do however retain some of Chicago’s illustrious industrialised aspects within their heavy, heaving, dense sound too and they are not a band who can easily be summed up as sticking to any particular preconceived rules.

This is partly illustrated on opener ‘Absolutum’ a stygian and near martial slow drum roll and distorted whispered speech sounds ominous and foreboding. The atmosphere is horrible and you wonder what lurks beneath it, fear, desperation, hopelessness and grief all spring to mind; there is no saviour or absolution here. The explosion takes a while but inevitably comes with the title track brooding into a coruscating melee of barbed strumming guitars, hefty slow drumming and industrialised rancour, the vocal Kommander gradually joining in and haranguing the troops with his snarls and things building into a battering and coruscating mass. The eel is unleashed and hungry for blood, I have visions of Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan’s The Strain in my head as vocally things are particularly vampiric and the theme sits well in my imagination along with the music and the sound of what strikes as an undead army marching relentlessly on. ‘The Struggle’ is next and humanity seems to definitely be on the losing side. There is some imperious melody here that stomps along and rides roughshod in its militancy and the punch and panache is as invigorating as it is gruesome.

Pulses fill the air a sonic attack on humanity and ‘The Ice Giant’ marches in. Vocals reach a furious pitch and the drumming is relentless. This is a blackened full on assault that cites the likes of Marduk and even Mayhem in obliterating sound and nastiness. The limited information I have been provided with may not allow lyrical insight but one certainly gets the idea that genocide is at the very heart of these all-consuming apocalyptic sermons. The last 4 tracks are all fairly lengthy and have absolutely nothing in the way of mercy about them simply providing a grizzly tableau in the mind of mangled ruins and remains. Having raged through science fiction / science fact, epochs of Armageddon such as ‘Cimmerian Thrust’ and ‘Aeon Generator’ the story unfolds. Spoken word is occasionally utilised giving an ominous tone and screams linger in the background, this strikes as a real War Of The Worlds going on, does mankind survive? Well it appears by the title of the final track ‘Moon…The Last Man’ that perhaps but only just and one man alone is a lingering and inevitable extinction so no happy ending here. I do love the way that you are left with the sounds of the survivor (perhaps) raging at his exterminators in a French language transmission calling from behind a cold grave on the very dark side of the moon. Climaxing in a psychedelic swirl, that is the fall of man, at least till the next album!

(8/10 Pete Woods)