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Thursday, 30 July 2020

Reviews: Damnation Angels, Fall Of Messiah, Fleshdriver, Satanica (Simon, Alex, Rich & Matt)

Damnation Angels: Fiber Of Our Being (Self Released) [Simon Black]

It would appear that the global capital of Symphonic metal has just relocated from Finland to Doncaster. These chaps have done pretty well for themselves over the last eleven years, although it’s been five years since anything new hit the shelves, which explains why these guys have not come across my radar before (I was quite musically reclusive for a long period until 2014 for reasons no-one cares about). This tells me two things – one, that I should have come out of isolation sooner, and two that there is another band back catalogue I now need to explore.

The first thing that strikes you on this album is the sheer quality of the sound and production. You expect it from the stalwarts that have been around the block for a while with big label budgets to play with, but this is still a band in the early stages of their product output relatively speaking. It’s great that they have had the chance to work with a set of ears like Scott Atkins, who has done a grand job bringing out the rich sound these boys have bubbling under the surface, all the more impressive when you remember that they are only a four piece.

The tone and pace of the album vary enormously, and although I enjoyed the more subtle approach of album closer and single A Sum Of Our Parts it seems a strange choice for a single given the sheer anthemic power of some of its predecessors. I can’t stress how consistently good the tracks on this album are. I’ve dished out high scores to acts in the past for being consistent like this at this as the baseline bar is set very high, but there are four songs on here that absolutely stand head and shoulders above the rest. To be clear, the baseline is ten out of ten - these four take it up to eleven.

Despite being incredibly strong as an opener, More Than Human relatively speaking is like a stepping stone to the rest of the album. When we get to Railrunner, we are in hit territory. This song has an incredibly anthemic chorus, which unusually opens the song before taking things back down to a gentle build before crashing back in full pelt (although to be fair they do this more than once, but it’s a trick that works). This is far more Melo-Metal than Symphonic, but is so damn good who cares about niggling details. Iggy Rodriguez vocals here absolutely soar, and you can tell right here, right now that this is a rock star just waiting to happen.

Instrumentally this isn’t an attempt at radio friendly cop out, as there’s a good two and a half minutes of complex time changes and experimentation that bizarrely don’t detract from the effect at all. The anthemic assault continues with title track Fiber Of Our Being and again I’m reminded how effective the trick of introducing the chorus in the opening bars is, especially when it comes back to the main chorus those soaring vocals jump up a clear octave emphatically and spectacularly.

Fractured Amygdala doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere initially, but the instrumental section is technically and emotively sublime, and a perfect example of the way this bunch sneak up on you and steal the show. The thirteen minute epic Remnants Of A Dying Star is where things get truly symphonic, and this format suits the genre particularly well. It’s not an easy trick to pull off and so often bands boast about the lengths of their token epic tracks, because let’s face it, playing that long without fucking up live is hard work, and even the best get it wrong on the night. What’s harder to do is write a lengthy song that actually has reason and content to justify the structure, and this one has it in spades. Each of the changes and breaks plays a part on the whole and it works because you don’t actually notice the time passing. This is symphonic metal songwriting at its best.

So apart from the almost unforgivable error of a British band misspelling the word ‘fibre’, this is an absolutely stonking album, showing a maturity and depth that one might expect from the likes of Nightwish or Stratovarius. And before any wag points out that it’s a deliberate global marketing ploy to use ‘American English’ let me point out there is no such thing: there is ‘English’, and there are ‘mistakes’. And when that’s the only fault I can find, I know this is going to be one of those rare albums that’s made its way onto my regular playlist. It should be on yours. 10/10

Fall Of Messiah: Senicarne (Holy Roar Records) [Alex Swift]

Channelling an aggressive take on furious post-hardcore fused with gothic darkness, Fall Of Messiah are poignant and indignant in the originality. They have a lot in common with the ambiance-capturing, mood-altering textures of acts in the vein of Touché Amore or Modest Mouse. The opener, La Reüpublique Du Vide harnesses emotion, the precise instrumental trickery proving perplexing yet mournful and serene. The aura envelopes you as the piece progresses from a slow rumination on complexity to a vicious, brooding, and megalithic titan, not to far detached from Black Metal in the way that the distorted combination of brooding bass textures with crescendoing guitars makes for an apocalyptic vision. Contreforts is just as hazy and surreal, in the way the gnashing, guttural screams of our frontman contrast vividly with the deeply melodic refrains of the instrumentals, and the journeying expanse of percussion experimentation on display – images of summoned of one who is tormented by their past, fleeing through treacherous mountains and frozen wastelands, in a desperate wish to escape. Riveloop continues that sense of loss and desperation in the face of madness, each note reverberating with a psychedelic serenity.

In contrast with the scaling and windswept nature of the previous tracks, Vertes Vignes proves subdued and cloaked in a mysterious yet forbidding shadow – the tortured screams feature again, except rather than commanding the world around them, they feel drowned by the torrent and swell of a tidal wave. Prominently, the lack of longevity means that an impression is made quickly, yet the listener is left feeling perplexed and strangely cold, unable to fully process the experience. Young Pines is most likely the closest resemblance to an actual song on display, the jarring quality of the powerful riffs against the discordant lead harmonies and visceral screaming making for a truly terrifying if beautiful voyage. Admittedly, the experimental nature of these works – although absolutely admirable – wears on you after a while. By the time Atlantique reared, I was becoming tired and dozy, in part due to being lost in the splendour of the sensual qualities, another part due to the repetition and monotony which grows ever more noticeable as the album progresses.

As we move into Sequoia and finally The loneliest whale in the world, I’m left feeling a combination of wonderment and exhaustion. On the one hand, I appreciate the musicianship here and the way they transform a few notes into a tapestry of emotions and feelings by employing distinct rhythmic structures and a brilliant sense of timing and melodic cohesion. On the other, sitting through the entire piece in one gulp became tedious and laborious. That said, I was granted a new perspective on the genre of post hardcore through listening. 7/10

Fleshdriver: Leech (Redefining Darkness Records) [Rich Oliver]

Leech is a very short but sweet EP/demo from Florida death metal band Fleshdriver. Instead of following in the footsteps of the Florida death metal giants, Fleshdriver have gone for a more Swedish inspired sound with that prevailing gnarly HM-2 guitar sound. Inspiration definitely comes from bands such as Dismember and Entombed as well as a big hardcore punk influence with bludgeoning riffs and fat grooves providing a very familiar but vastly enjoyable listen. Fleshdriver are only made up of two members with Tyler Denslow on the vocals and guitar whilst Quinn Riley is on the drums and for a two piece Fleshdriver have a truly massive sound. This may be only a very short release with only five songs and a running length of less than 15 minutes but this is 15 minutes of filthy death metal goodness that whilst wholly familiar and done to death by other bands is a very enjoyable listen. 8/10

Satanica: Resurrection Of Devil's Spirit (Iron Shield Records) [Matt Bladen]

Formed in 2002 Japanese speed metal band Satanica not only boast three previous full length albums, their last being from 2010, but also as of 2014 a singing drummer called, and I shit you not Ritti Danger. The rest of the band are Ozzie Alastor and Shee Lipps on guitars and K. Z. Behemoth on bass and from the the pictures on their social media you get a vibe of Dimmu Borgir meets Motley Crue with black metal face paint paired with bandanas and bullet belts. Now Resurrection Of Devil's Spirit has been in gestation for 10 years so has it been worth the wait? Well if you wear tight jeans, bullet belts, spiked wristbands and play spikier guitars then Satanica will be for you as this album boasts 9 songs of galloping classic metal on the chugging Liar, with touches of speed metal influencing thrash on tracks such as the Judas Priest-like Bloodthirsty and Black Widow while the instrumental Kamikaze has lots of neat twin axe attack. Satanica have a very Western sound that takes its cues from the aforementioned Priest but also from Teutonic sound of Accept with a hint at the more occult themes of Venom, let's hope they have the same excellent choreography as the Germans though! Resurrection Of The Devil is not what I expected at all, it's definitely in line with the NWOTHM bands such as Enforcer, Skull Fist, Bullet etc. The visuals are a little muddled but the music is spot on, well worth 10 years! 7/10

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