Much like anyone would expect, Wrath of the Apex Predator carries a raw production with a slightly higher pitch than one might expect. The guitars aren’t that sharp, instead having a mid-range sound that ends up slightly dull, the better to bludgeon away with instead of slicing apart. The bass guitar is a little buried in the mix, but the deeper, sometimes rattling sound helps to accentuate the dark environment being created. Surprisingly, the drums really stand out over everything, even the already loud guitars. The cymbals are basically right at the forefront, coming through as crisp and natural as the equally podded natural sounding snares that seem to be a little on the loose side. However, the bass kicks have a rich, tight click that, depending on how fast or aggressive the song ends up being, can stand out the most, or be present enough just to help fill the material. The vocals are also kind of lost in the mix, having a lower rasp that, while largely inaudible, still sounds pretty good. It seems like the intention here is to focus more on the music than the actual lyrics, something rarely seen in either style this effort works with.
“The Age of Firelords” kicks things off nicely after the brief introductory track “Revelation to Annihilate,” though doesn’t quite have as aggressive a performance. Various passages offer catchy early Black Metal riffs, but many sections also cater to blast beat fueled hatred, showing off the power the bass kicks can bring with them. There isn’t anything all that new or unique about this song, but it’s still a solid effort, bringing nearly four minutes of ravaging hostility before more ambient effects kick in, essentially linking it to the Thrashier primal aggression of “Axis of Lucifer.” However, the title track, “Wrath of the Apex Predator,” is a blistering Black Metal assault just dripping with venom, bludgeoning your skull with high-speed blasting, rattling bass riffs, and a truly uncompromising atmosphere of helplessness, especially the slower, soul crushing areas littered throughout. It’s easy to see how this became the title track, standing out as one of the best the release has to offer, but definitely not the only one.
“Arcane Funeral Rites” is a much slower cut, offering up thick slabs of what seems like Doom Metal influences here and there that is simply crushing thanks to the deeper chords, atmosphere, as well as the production. The pace shifts constantly, going from catchy mid-tempo material that will have you bobbing your head along instinctively, to a lethal mixture of speed and blast beat fueled anger that isn’t really necessary, but still sounds pretty good thanks to the fluid transitions in and out. “Rites of Illuminated Death” seems to try to recapture that same magic, but the slower sections end up somewhat bland, not quite having the same bludgeoning impact. Towards the end, this becomes a bit of a burden, as it just seems to go on for too long without much to keep you entertained. Even the faster passages seem a little more on the cliché side. It’s unfortunate, but thankfully doesn’t cause this album to end on a sour note, as “Temple of Necromancy” throws you right back into the punishing speed and energy that makes up much of the album, as well as a superb guitar solo that’s pretty short and drowned out, but fits the atmosphere perfectly.
Aside the rather lackluster “Rites of Illuminated Death,” there’s also “Revelation to Annihilate,” which is the biggest let down of all, and it’s how the album actually starts. This has nothing to do with the performance itself, as this is definitely one hell of an introduction. The drums blast away with some slight technicality here and there, and the random growls add to the level of intimidation. Sadly, this strong start fades out a little more than a minute in, giving way to some creepy ambience that sounds good, but will leave you wanting to hear the rest of the song that obviously wasn’t finished in any way. Those additional elements hit at the end of nearly every track, though none really feel as intrusive as it does here. Of course, it can go on longer than necessary, such as at the end of “Arcane Funeral Rites,”which seems to focus more on a ritualistic environment with a slower beat that just doesn’t seem to want to end.
Jarro proves that, once again, the one-man outfit and studio time can really make a truly enjoyable experience. What listeners and fans have here is over forty minutes of one man’s creative vision of the darkest of topics, uninterrupted by a hired middleman that tries putting their own unique spin on things. While not every song works out, or ends up the most unique of experiences, Wrath of the Apex Predator by Impious Baptism is simply one of the most genuine, and largely well executed albums of this breed you’ll happen across this year, deserving both its spot in the Hells Headbangers roster, as well as your collection.