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Shoulder-barging groove - 55%

gasmask_colostomy, April 25th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Massacre Records

Early this year, Damnation’s Hammer re-released their second full-length album on Massacre Records. Who was that a big deal for? Well, obviously the band would have been chuffed to get Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres out to a wider audience, but the Lancashire, England lads had waited patiently for about 15 months before it happened. And, oddly enough, perhaps it was notable for craft beer makers, seeing as how Twisted Angel Brewery has named two products after the songs 'Deathcraft' and 'Hex' (the latter is the band’s own brand of instrumentals, here reaching instalment number three). Was the album newsworthy for doom metal fans? Despite Damnation’s Hammer having relatively slow passages in their songs and a thick, meaty guitar tone playing classic styles, it can’t be said that disciples of Saint Vitus or Candlemass are the target for this album. Nor do the faster moments and brutish chugging leave a great deal for the average death metal fan to lap up, not if the staccato slamming grooves are anything to go by. So, who should spend their time to invest in the shiny new edition of Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres?

Those who want loud, primal, testosterone-fuelled metal will be at home here. If this album were a date, both parties would eat a lot, drink a lot, stagger outside for a taxi (which is weirdly driven by Satan, but neither of them would notice), then fuck until they fall asleep. Damnation’s Hammer really go at it and not much room is left for subtlety, even though the themes of the Necronomicon and some mildly eerie intros and interludes make an effort at atmosphere. However, two things prevent that atmosphere from ever arising for more than a few seconds: chugging and Tim Preston’s vocals. The latter may be remembered from Dearly Beheaded and will certainly be remembered one way or another for his performance here. With exceptional willpower, Preston resolves to shout his way through all the songs in a gritty, flat yell that occasionally switches things up with moody spoken word. The chugging guitars form a mighty fist to the nose in the sheer power of their delivery, which is clearly one of the blunt selling points of the style. That said, far too much of the album relies on the same kind of well-worn chug; so much so that it fails to have much impact after a couple of songs.

Therefore, the main issue that Damnation’s Hammer run up against during these 10 cuts is uniformity. When the flat, lifeless riffs attach themselves to the flat, lifeless vocals, the music feels like a chore to sit through, the effect somewhere close to a groovier and more bone-headed Usurper from their early ‘00s incarnation. On the other hand, the heaviness generated by the concrete smack of these dual blunt edges shouldn’t be entirely dismissed: fans of broken jaws may well find themselves trying to crack a smile (or someone else’s). Damnation’s Hammer also lurch away into more inspired ideas at moments, blasting into 'Deathcraft' with all the death metal aggression they can muster and imbuing 'Wolves of Aquarius' with a more urgent strain of down-picking that is bookended by ringing clean guitars. The pick of the bunch is varied closer 'Entrance to the Final Chamber', but upon reaching 'The Eternal Harvest' and finding that nothing at all new is introduced, some listeners may simply give up before the album’s late peak.

With this sophomore album, Damnation’s Hammer have presented themselves and their listeners with a conundrum: is it worth having an original sound that isn’t very good? Because Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres follows no trends and steps on no toes, yet a large part of it manages to rain on its own parade by being repetitive and unimaginative. A quantity of loud riffing and shoulder-barging groove may well suit the occasion on a drunk night with a bad mood, though it seems unlikely that an album like this could be played again in the sober light of day.


Originally written for The Metal Observer - http://www.metal-observer.com/3.o/review/damnations-hamme…s-deadly-spheres/

Frosted Death Metal - 90%

Sevenchurch, December 30th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Independent

First came across Damnation’s Hammer at this year’s Warhorns festival where they played an impressively tight and focused set which went down a storm. I marked them as ones to buy an album by and, lo, here I am with a full CD dropped into my lap! Nice CD too, well laid out. Attention to detail; always a good sign.

From the eerie, winding opening of ‘Temple Of The Descending Gods’ this Northern cult lay out their stall with that same focus I saw live. The riff just thumps down and bites deep. It’s a crisp, glinting production which gives teeth to the riff and still gives bass and drums their respective space to breathe. Sound wise I guess if Celtic Frost had been capable of recording Monotheist in the eighties and had a good production it might have been somewhere close. This is a very good thing, in case you were wondering. There’s the sheer control of Monotheist here, those slightly choppy but huge dense riffs hit with precision but, also, there is the undeniable feeling of something chaotic straining the steel control almost to breaking point. This is aided no end by the distinctive vocals – they waver, curl into a snarl and teeter on the edge of sanity like Abdul Alhazred himself.

We seem to be very much in Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard territory lyric wise with such relentless songs as the punishing ‘Hammers Of War’, wailing lead break cutting through the monolithic riff in maniacal manner. The territory may be familiar but they present it with genuine individuality, the vocals wrapping themselves around convoluted words and syllables with an insane, deliberate, precision. It all comes across as channelling some psychosis, which is such a refreshing change from constant monotone death growls.

Damnation’s Hammer also seem to really be getting the hang of those spaces between sound, the moments where the intensity can be cranked another turn not by piling on the riff, but by sparse bass notes and very judicious keyboards. Listen to the excellent ‘Wolves Of Aquarius’ and ‘Entrance To The Final Chamber’.

This is, nevertheless, a relentless and punishing sophomore album. You don’t get out of here skull intact. They can switch tempos in a moment, mid-paced crush to sudden blastbeat rip, but this technical precision comes without sterility. This is nice and old school roots, pushing the shape with a modern focus and drive.

This is such an impressive second album. They even sidestep the often followed self-released pitfall of trying to cram too many tracks on. They leave you semi-conscious rather than beat you into a coma. Downsides? Well nothing that wouldn’t be nit-picking – this is one of those cases where any negative comments would be more in the form of “I wonder if…” or ” Will they do this next album…” rather than any real issue. Maybe I would like to hear them crash into nuclear chaos once, or play around with more stuff like the instrumental ‘The Hex iii’ but that’s just me. Frankly I just can’t wait to catch them live again now I know the songs.

Honestly this is just a fantastic bit of driven, focussed, roaring frosted death metal. Pounding, punishing, precise but with those raw black edges and wings beating the sounds of chaos within. If you don’t buy it, it will just suck you in anyway so why resist?


(previously published on www.avenoctum.com)