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Different name, yet almost the same - 86%

colin040, October 11th, 2021

At one point death metal had got rid of its thrash-like roots, as bands such Cryptopsy, Suffocation and Kataklysm had clearly showed. The future wouldn’t be too bright for old school death metal fans who yearned for a more simplistic, yet effective take on death metal, or would it? No, I’m not talking about Jungle Rot…here’s where Crimson Relic come in. They're not quite on the same level as that of the pre-Crimson Relic band called Divine Eve – as there are some minor changes to the production and writing here, but they certainly come close.

Now, don’t let the doom/death metal tag scare you. You don’t even have to be a fan of this style to enjoy Crimson Relic to begin with, as the band plays doom/death metal. Just like Divine Eve, there are obvious nods to Celtic Frost, Entombed, but there’s also some high-intensity thrashing that recalls Slayer as well as Destruction and doom grooves you might recognize from the first two Cianide albums - if this doesn't sound satisfying to you, then I don't know what does.

Thanks to the wide amount of influences that fluently melt into one and another, you’re never dealing with a never-ending amount of droning nonsense, as the guitars always remain busy, whether they operate in rapid-fire thrash-mode or come crushing through the gates with a heavy Celtic Frost-esque stomp. It also helps that the songs are short, catchy and with awesome riff following up after awesome riff, I never get tired of Purgatory’s Reign to begin with and who could forget Xan Hammack's dry throated, yet commanding death metal shouts? ‘’Thane of Torchless Light’’ opens up with a blitzkrieg thrash riff before heading into the Celtic Frost territory, only to unexpectedly take turns with that eerie acoustic interlude before returning to its original state with those heavy-as-bricks power chords and tight thrashing rhythms.

Best of all, Crimson Relic let their riffs speak for themselves, regardless of each composition’s structure. ‘’The Lust Primeval’’ rages onward with some hardcore punk-inspired riffs – harkening all the way back to Entombed before they began to flirt with hard rock. Easily the fastest song on Purgatory’s Reign, there’s no doubt in my mind that this would have sounded out of place under the Divine Eve name, but it works well here. The use of the timpani was also a good idea, as it turns ‘’Crimson Relic’’ and ‘’The Dismal of the Wicked’’ into semi-epic tracks that resemble the same majestic moments of To Mega Therion. Especially the latter is absolutely top-notch stuff, where earthquake-causing riffs lead towards more thundering thrashing and back again – not to mention the somber lead melody during last two minutes are absolutely evocative; recalling the soundtrack of a journey towards the underworld.

There’s not much else to say, really. I shall admit that in terms of production values, I prefer Divine Eve’s Upon These Ashes Scorn the World, but Purgatory’s Reign certainly comes close in terms of sound. It’s a bit more distant, not quite as a loud, yet we’re dealing with similar crashing drums and down tuned, crude guitar tone. Conclusion: if you like doom/death metal, or any form of extreme metal that’s riff-centered to begin with, then Crimson Relic won't let you down.

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A relic from the past - 60%

robotiq, March 27th, 2021

Who remembers Crimson Relic? Almost no-one. I guess these guys were playing the wrong sound (retro death metal) at the wrong time (1996). My main memory of this band wasn't their music but their distribution. You could often find new, shrink-wrapped copies of "Purgatory's Reign" in the bargain bins of major UK record shops. I don't know why. Perhaps the label pressed many more records than they could ever sell. Let's face it, there was almost no demand for this kind of music at the time. I bought one of these copies though. I knew about the band's connection to Divine Eve, which was enough for me.

This album didn't make much of an impression on me back then. It doesn't make much of an impression on me now either. Death metal was in terminal decline when this album was released. The dominant sub-styles of death metal revolved around ripping off Cannibal Corpse or ripping off Suffocation. There were a few interesting, hyper-technical and brutal records being released (like "None So Vile" and "Sorcery"). There was also the melodic Swedish death metal scene that was hitting full stride. The sound of Crimson Relic was quaint and rustic for the time. The band's Celtic Frost-ed grooves looked back to the previous decade. These were sprinkled with some similarly unfashionable Autopsy-isms and some punky European death metal flavours.

Crimson Relic is best seen as the continuation of Divine Eve. Only two musicians played on this record, so Crimson Relic is more of a side-project than a 'band' (unlike Divine Eve). The connection between the two bands is Xan Hammack, an integral part of Divine Eve. He handles the guitars, bass and vocals here. He was joined by drummer Rhett Davis from Morgion, who also plays the timpani on occasion. Listening back now, Crimson Relic feels like the death spasm of Divine Eve. Some of these songs were originally written for the mother band. That band never recorded a full-length album, so "Purgatory's Reign" is a substitute.

This is a solid but unremarkable album. Much of the album has a steady punk rhythm, played at a medium-fast pace with no blasting, and with a few slower parts. The band are best when they experiment with melody and with musical adornments. Some of the melodies remind me of the first Amorphis album, though Crimson Relic never take them as far as Amorphis did. The first song ("Thane of Torchless Night") has some evocative acoustic guitar playing underneath the main riffs. This sounds awesome, and the band could have used this trick more often. The timpani is under-used too, though it sounds good when it appears (i.e., "The Solemn and the Wicked"). The timpani playing isn’t quite as expansive as when Master's Hammer used it, but it is still refreshing to hear the war drum pounding away. It is a shame that the band didn’t take these sonic experiments further.

I can't fault Crimson Relic's endeavour and commitment, but the record feels rushed and underwhelming. The featureless production doesn’t help. It lacks the magic touch needed to bring the songs alive. This album is nowhere near as crushing or as distinctive as the "As the Angels Weep" EP, which is an excellent death metal obscurity. There have always been better records than "Purgatory's Reign". Still, perhaps a pure musical assessment of this record is doing Crimson Relic a disservice. Crimson Relic deserves credit for plowing the old school death metal furrow back in 1996, when there were almost no retro/revival death metal bands. These guys kept the torch burning through the darkest times of the genre. If you ever find a cheap copy of this CD in a shop, buy it. Crimson Relic records deserve better than being sent to the landfill.

Pure death metal elitism... - 97%

metalbrain, September 11th, 2006

A scant ten years have passed since this CD was unleashed in 1996, yet it still seems to be as ignored now as it was then, unbelievably enough. Most people who follow the true death metal scene to any real extent will know that Crimson Relic was labeled as a continuation of sorts of Divine Eve, even though the other former members of that band contest this. Xan Hammack was the mastermind behind "Purgatory's Reign", with assistance provided by drummer Rhett Davis of Morgion.

Call them what you will, but Crimson Relic blended perfectly the best points of early Celtic Frost and early Entombed (with additional touches of Slayer), to arrive at this crushing masterpiece. Musically speaking, there are simply no weaknesses in any of these 10 songs--each one is crafted expertly and perfectly, leaving nothing lacking for the devotee of real death metal. All 10 songs are laden with some of the most dismal and atmospheric riffs ever recorded by a death metal band. It would be far too easy to label this "old school" because such a useless term does nothing to describe the majesty and brilliance of this album. This is, without a doubt, one of the finest moments in American death metal, probably made more obvious because this is so un-American sounding. If this would've been released in 1986 or 2006, it would be just as impressive--in other words, this is the epitome of timeless metal. The only flaw is the production since the vocals are a little low in the final mix, but that is a minor complaint really and hardly worth mentioning considering the quality of the material.

This album claimed the top notch in my top ten list for 1996 and still remains in my top 100 of all time. It's rather doubtful that Nuclear Blast will ever repress this, but it's still obtainable with a minimal amount of effort and I would encourage you to get it before it fades away forever in years to come.