Tuesday, July 25, 2017

review by Matt Spall: Damnations Day

Fans of traditional melodic metal, traditional progressive metal and adult contemporary metal in general will, if they have not already done so, find Damnations Day (Australia) to be an outstanding band for several reasons. Let’s cut to the chase, the singing on this album is out of this world. If the band plays in your town, it would be worthwhile to hear how the voice holds in the live environment. On this recording it sounds incredible. Another point of interest is that the band is very much a heavy metal entity, meaning that there is rocking, not just melody going on. In fact, our friend Matt Spall, who specializes in prog music, explains very well below what Damnations Day does. --MMB
Artist: Damnations Day
Album Title: A World Awakens
Label: Sensory Records
Release date: 24 March 2017
I have gone on record before about the strength of the heavy music scene in Australia; there is literally no let-up in the number of bands that are coming through. It’s like a torrent. But more than that, these bands almost all display an incredibly high standard, whatever their chosen subgenre. And now you can add the name Damnations Day to the list because, as ‘A World Awakens’ demonstrates, they more than threaten to muscle their way into the competitive antipodean melodic prog metal scene.
In fact, come to think of it, the title of this record is very apt. Prior to the arrival of this sophomore release, I had never even heard of Damnations Day. I suspect I am not alone. But now, the world must surely awaken to the merits of this talented band from Geelong, Victoria.
Damnations Day, who released their debut ‘Invisible, The Dead’ back in 2013, is comprised of vocalist and guitarist Mark Kennedy, his brother Dean Kennedy on drums and Jon King on guitar. Those already familiar with this kind of music will almost certainly recognise the name Teramaze and it might therefore be of interest to know that Dean Kennedy is also their tub-thumper. The Teramaze links don’t stop there either, as Dean Wells was drafted in as session bassist and knob-twiddler extraordinaire.
On that note, it has to be said that ‘A World Awakens’ sounds very good indeed. The production affords the music the power required for a metal band, providing plenty of grunt and muscularity. However, there is clarity too and so the melodic sensibilities, the technicality and the vocals are given the best opportunity to shine.
Speaking of vocals, there’s really no other place to start because boy, this guy can sing. Low range, upper range, soft, powerful, emotive; there’s no place he can’t seemingly go and nothing is off limits. And you can hear that he is giving it everything. There’s an enthusiasm and a vibrancy that comes through, even when Kennedy is leading the music down a darker or more aggressive path. What this means is that Damnations Day are able to compete in a genre that already boasts some amazing singers, when they might have otherwise struggled.
t’s just as well because the music that sits alongside the vocals is genuinely out of the top drawer. When Damnations Day hit full pelt, the riffs are big and bold, the drumming is aggressive and the tone is brooding and intense. Opener ‘The Witness’ is the perfect example, coming out of the blocks with fists flying. The guitar tone that delivers the bruising riffs catches my ear immediately, as does the surprisingly sophisticated rhythm section. The bass rumbles but with understated finesse and the drums deliver both intricacy and an all-out double-pedal assault.
But within the same song, there are some great melodies to be heard, a catchy chorus and brief moments when the foot is taken off the pedal to allow something more subtle and nuanced to come through.
‘Dissecting The Soul’ reminds me of a cross between Circus Maximus and Tomorrow’s Eve. It is a moody composition that has a slightly greater progressive edge whilst the sophisticated chorus is sprawling, dreamy and utterly irresistible, topped off by some dextrous lead guitar work. And I love the dramatic and dark outro too.
The high quality continues as the album develops. For example, ‘Colours of Darkness’ plays around with light and shade to great effect, underlining the bands’ progressive leanings in the process. And then there’s ‘I Pray’ which is an ambitious composition that pulls together a number of different elements into a cohesive and compelling listening experience.
Then there’s my favourite track of them all, ‘A World Awakens’. It was the track that I heard first and immediately pulled me under its spell. It begins with a slow, atmospheric intro before opening up into a galloping verse aided by a commanding vocal performance. It takes a while to materialise but after a suspense-filled build-up, the chorus is absolutely enormous, begging to be sung along to with gusto. Everything about it is just about perfect, culminating in a hair-raising scream from Kennedy that segues into a quieter, more introspective passage before skipping towards its conclusion.
Like most good melodic-leaning metal bands, Damnations Day are not averse to a ballad either, giving us two on ‘A World Awakens’. The first, ‘Into Black’, is dominated by an acoustic guitar and sumptuous vocals initially but introduces well-placed orchestration to provide an elegant and grandiose conclusion. The second, ‘Diagnose’ is also the closing track, bringing the album to an end in style. Again, acoustic guitars figure in the opening stages alongside some deeper and more sombre vocals but are eventually placed by a wonderfully strong and emotive guitar riff that compliments and indeed enhances the melodic intent of the composition. However, the real strength of this last song is its relative simplicity, which allows the atmosphere and the tangible emotions to take centre stage.
To be honest, I can find very little to criticise about Damnations Day and their sophomore album ‘A World Awakens’. It has certainly caught my attention for all the right reasons and deserves to be heard by anyone who enjoys properly powerful melodic metal with a progressive edge.
Powerpoints: 8.75
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