A glance at the cover of Damnations Day’s debut album, Invisible, the Dead, will either tell you a lot about this band’s sound, or it will completely mislead you. If you take a look at it and expect a very modern-sounding, smooth-flowing, proggy album, then you will largely get what you came for. However, I was expecting a djently flowing album full of tips to bands like Periphery or Meshuggah (I had to do a double take before I realized that that wasn’t the Periphery logo).
So I was not expecting the jolt of electricity that shot up my back as soon as I hit play on the title track, with a tasty, full-sounding riff taking hold in my ears and setting off a headbanging reflex somewhere deep in my brain. This transitions to a soft, yet ominous first verse, where we are given our first introduction to the uncannily James LaBrie-like voice of Mark Kennedy.
Yet I was still a little skeptical of the whole arrangement: it seemed like I was going to start off my SDMETAL career with a run-of-the-mill prog-power album, for one good intro riff does not a good album make. But then another great riff hit in the title track, with Kennedy’s vocals soaring over the song like one of those majestic eagles in The Hobbit. And then a colossal, pit-ready riff hit, followed by yet another perfect riff. That’s when the appeal, and genius, of this album hit me.
There aren’t any novel tricks on display here – Damnations Day play it pretty by-the-book on this release. Yet they execute each part of the prog-power formula so well, that their relative lack of experimentation is wholly forgiven, and even forgotten. The riffs of Jon King and Kennedy accomplish exactly what they want them to: Their thrashy riffs could start earthquakes from their sheer mosh-worthiness; their ominous verse riffs grip you like an episode of Breaking Bad; their epic riffs conjure images of knights upon steeds doing battle in the sky.
That all says nothing of the other star feature of this release – Kennedy’s voice. As with the guitars, any cheesiness that may have crept into your subconscious disappears immediately due to the sheer technical skill and fantastic range of his voice. It simultaneously is able to lead a song, yet also mold to what the song dictates. He can pull out a gruff mid-range and Anselmo-esque falsetto for the harder-hitting verses, then call upon the higher echelons of his range to add even more epic to a chorus, yet turn on a dime and get surprisingly soulful on one of the album’s two haunting ballads.
Speaking of which, another one of this album’s strengths is that it never wears out its welcome with one particular style. The album starts out largely thrashy and epic, yet interjects the first soft song right when the epic thrash could have gotten a bit stale, and does the same for the final track, which ends the album on a somber, yet impactful note.
Damnations Day sound like a band of veterans, guys who have already carved out their sound and mastered it, an impressive feat considering that this is their debut. If these guys can continue to churn out razor-sharp riffs and soaring vocal melodies, then they definitely have quite a bright future ahead of them.
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