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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/