It’s been 11 years since the last release from this eminent and esoteric collective, but The Blood of Heroes finally brings forth the culmination of the conceptual trilogy that first began with the project’s foundation in 2009. Just as the band’s name is derived from the U.S. title of the 1989 motion picture Salute of the Jugger, Nine Cities follows a sonic exploration of the post-apocalyptic world depicted in the movie, vaguely hinted at as an oppressive upper class structure with the phrase, “Don’t fuck with the Nine Cities.” Indeed, such a statement could apply to The Blood of Heroes as the production team of Submerged, Enduser, and Daniele Antezza crafts a punishing barrage of breakcore, enhanced by a variety of notable guests.
After “Jerush-A-Salem” sets the stage with an introductory spoken word leads into ominously distorted dub vocals and bass drops, later tracks like “New Orleans,” “La Guerra,” and the closing “Erebus” bombard the listener with waves of jittery electronics, chilled ambient guitars, and dynamic vocal treatments layered atop spastic glitch-laden beats, the latter track especially notable as Burton C. Bell’s throaty recitations of “The story ends with none of us” end things on a grim note. “Skara Brae” and “Kata Tjuta” offer more relaxed, though no less intense, dub-inspired tableaus, the blunt force of the subsonic bass sure to affect one’s heart as much their ears, while the bubbling swells of static, percussion, and distant voices on “Lower Atlantis” evoke an appropriately subterranean, even subaquatic vibe. Perhaps most striking is “Rome” with its minimal guitar lines growling against an abrasive breakbeat, compounded by Justin K. Broadrick’s distinctive voice to result in a track that’s highly reminiscent of Godflesh’s more experimental moments, while the rather jazzy bass line and clean guitars of “Dharamshala” dance with abstract and ghostly vocals underscored by a junky beat, making for perhaps the most exotic track on the record.
Other guests on the album include the likes of Mick Harris, Dr. Israel, Gore Tech, Ajamari, and more who bring their respective flavors to The Blood of Heroes, making Nine Cities a lavishly textured production. Although it bears no samples or overt references to its namesake, those familiar with the movie should at least recognize, and hopefully appreciate, the elements of sonic world-building at play, while aficionados of breakcore and experimental drum & bass will likely revel in its aural idiosyncrasies. As Rutger Hauer’s character states in the film, “I like scars.”