Antichrist Siege Machine’s “Sisera”: A cleaner, more black-metal tinged single from war metal’s best

Extreme metal band Antichrist Siege Machine released their newest single Sisera, which features clean production and creates an aggressive and demonic atmosphere for listeners.
Extreme metal band Antichrist Siege Machine released their newest single “Sisera,” which features clean production and creates an aggressive and demonic atmosphere for listeners.
Courtesy of Burney

For those uninitiated—and I would count nearly everyone in this company save a select few—Richmond, Virginia’s Antichrist Siege Machine (ASM) is one of the absolute best extreme metal bands coming out of America right now. You’ve probably never heard of them, likely because they produce some of the most chaotic music ever committed to tape. Antichrist Siege Machine belongs to a particularly punishing and visceral subgenre of black metal which some call “war metal”; others call it “bestial black metal,” but bands like ASM prove why this appellation is a bit misleading. That label might work for bands such as Revenge, whose high-pitched tremolo picking is more in line with traditional black metal like Mayhem, but Antichrist Siege Machine and other bands are clearly influenced by death metal, with loud, thundering power chords and head-banging riffs more reserved for the latter genre than the former. This isn’t to say that ASM isn’t colored by black metal; their pulsating drums on “Filth of the World” and “Purifying Blade” sound straight off a Bathory record and vocalist SB’s croak is classic kvlt, obviously not the deep growl associated with death metal. Plus, anyone listening to “Apostasy” or “Conqueror Shadow” couldn’t mistake it for anything except black ‘n’ roll on steroids. On this newest single, too, Antichrist Siege Machine is really leaning into traditional black metal far more than on previous releases, without losing the death metal flare which makes them so unique.

To start off, let’s talk about the production. Now, black metal production ranges from terrible to very terrible, which can add to the viscerality of the genre in question but can also prove to be just one more hurdle for the listener to jump over. Take fellow war metal band Kapala, which I couldn’t get into because I couldn’t tell any of the instruments apart, nor could I find the guitar—everything just sounded like an explosion of static. Even war metal pioneers Blasphemy—whom I enjoy far more than Kapala—are a challenging first listen. You have to try to pick out any discernible guitar part from the chaos. Antichrist Siege Machine has always been the exception to this rule and stands out from the crowd: Their production, even from their 2017 debut “Morbid Triumph,” has always been clean, bright and crisp, which allows the absolute bestiality and hatred of each tune to shine. They are, in this regard, somewhat akin to technical/brutal death metal icon Cryptopsy on their renowned “None So Vile,” where each instrument (bass, guitar and drums) was discernible and absolutely pummeled you as a result. ASM’s production has always been a point in the band’s favor, and the production has only improved and become even shinier since 2021’s opus “Purifying Blade,” which might have had the worst production of any of their albums, sounding a bit muddy, but that was the tone they were going for. “Purifying Blade” has been their most extreme album to date, absolutely relentless and unapologetically hateful.

On “Sisera,” the production might be the cleanest it’s ever been, which is both a blessing and a curse. Again, SB’s shrieks and drums and RZ’s guitars are as sharp and fast as ever, and we can hear every second of their aggression, but there is just a little something lost from the muddier, more evil production of “Purifying Blade.” But, if I’m being honest, I don’t know if anything could be more evil than “Purifying Blade,” whose single “Victorious Legions of Satan” was as hellish as you can get. Still, I have to praise ASM for keeping up the aggression on “Sisera”: The intensity, speed and wrath of their last release have not waned at all. SB’s growls at the beginning had me pumping my fist in the air, and I found myself overwhelmed by those drums and thick guitars … in a good way.

The song starts with a classic ASM guitar whine reminiscent of “Melted Icons of Christ” or “Hanged by the Bell Rope.” This atmosphere is quickly replaced by pure aggression, as the drums, guitars and growls swoop in and completely envelop the listener. Hearing new ASM material for the first time since 2021 had me—and I suspect every fan—excited. SB’s vocals are guttural, cathartic and absolutely demonic; the man is one of the most underrecognized vocalists in black metal. After some more guitar feedback and ambience halfway into the song, there’s a headbanging riff that evokes “Storm Chariot” off “Filth of the World” or “Victorious Legions of Satan” from “Purifying Blade.” The band also by no means overstays their welcome: With songs this brutal and claustrophobic, to clock in at under three minutes is a wise choice. After that headbanging riff, the last 20 seconds of the song are filled with SB’s incomprehensible vocals, reminiscent of “Morbid Triumph,” before the song comes to a victorious end.

It sounds as though Antichrist Siege Machine has been listening to a lot of Diocletian: The added layers of guitars in the background, the artwork and cleanliness behind the absolute filth remind me a lot of “Gesundrian,” which is fine, but if I wanted to listen to that, I wouldn’t be listening to ASM. I came for sharp, militant aggression, not something complex or layered. I can even hear just a hint of Batushka, whose melodic tendencies have crept into the background. I can only hope that these influences are minimal in the upcoming release, but not because I dislike Batushka or Diocletian; I just want ASM to maintain their unique identity, firmly rooted in both black metal and death metal. Like I said, the blistering drums and powerful guitars from RZ and SB’s vocals are as dynamic, brutal and engaging as ever. After the thundering, more death-metal-influenced “Purifying Blade,” I am eager to see how Antichrist Siege Machine incorporates their own unique black metal influences à la “Morbid Triumph” on “Vengeance Of Eternal Fire,” slated for release in April, followed by a tour schedule with other black metal acts 1349, Spectral Wound and Spirit Possession.

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