Ares Kingdom - In Darkness At Last CD
Immediately after completing the recording of “By the Light of Their Destruction,” released in 2019, Chuck Keller, the brilliant guitarist and compositional mastermind behind Ares Kingdom, began writing material for another album. He spent the next year working on a body of songs that he intended as a companion to “By the Light of Their Destruction,” viewing the new material as an extension of the preceding work. Entitled “In Darkness at Last,” the band’s fifth full-length is inarguably their most aggressive recording to date.
Still operating as a trio consisting of Keller, drummer Mike Miller (Order From Chaos), and bassist/vocalist Alex Blume (Nepenthe, Blasphemic Cruelty, Perdition Temple), Ares Kingdom continue to refine, polish, and sharpen their sound—a caustic assault of precision deathrash. Every track on “In Darkness at Last” evokes the majesty of violence and the entropic preeminence of decay as Keller’s guitar rides triumphant upon the chariot of Miller’s drumming, drawn by the furious power of Blume’s bass. Indeed, there are few bands in the underground whose degree of musicianship rivals that of Ares Kingdom. One can hear the intuitive chemistry between the band members, crystalized from decades of playing and performing together.
Set against the feverish and visceral energy of the music, Keller’s lyrics are, as always, erudite and esoteric, transmitted via the belligerent roar of Blume’s vocals. Continuing with the thematic approach of the last album, Keller has recently redirected his gaze upward, toward the celestial light that predates our existence and the myths of ancient gods that once inhabited the heavens—thematic through lines of the last two albums. There are other points of contact between “In Darkness at Last” and its predecessor. Of course, the contrast between light and dark is the most obvious relationship between them. The cover art for the two albums is similarly dichotomous. The artwork for this album depicts the city of Pompeii with Vesuvius erupting above. A column-lined building stands atop the hill in the foreground. Though the two paintings are unrelated, the image on “By the Light of Their Destruction”—of a comet lighting the distant sky as seen through a series of Romanesque columns—is a view from within what could be the same building, inverting the vantage point and providing an inside-looking-out perspective.
Less apparent is the albums’ ontological link to Vulpecula, both having been inspired by Keller’s prior work in that band. And as with Vulpecula, the conceptual impetus of the first side of “In Darkness at Last” is predominantly astronomical. A more direct connection between the two albums is the continuation of the “Litany” song cycle. Begun on “By the Light of Their Destruction,” the series reemerges on this album with “Litany II: Apotheosis,” a five-song suite that consumes the entire second side of the LP. Such multi-part song cycles were a regular compositional feature of Order From Chaos but have not previously appeared in the Ares Kingdom catalog. Summoning a theme from an earlier work, the album’s penultimate track—and the centerpiece of “Litany II”—“A Wolf on the Fold,” is inspired by Lord Byron’s poem “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” which is also the title of an instrumental track on Ares Kingdom’s second album, “Incendiary.” In this way, “In Darkness at Last” is not only a companion to “By the Light of Their Destruction” and the culmination of Ares Kingdom’s recordings to date, it draws together the various threads of Keller’s entire body of work, presenting a unique and uncompromising vision of metal that remains unparalleled in both its breadth and quality.
- J. Campbell