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Intense and melodic, less progressive than their previous work - 75%

Wyrd2012, July 31st, 2020

British symphonic power metal quartet Damnation Angels is not a well-known band among fans of heavy metal music, but they are surprisingly adept at instrumentation and song writing. Their first singer, Norwegian YouTube star PelleK, left in 2015 and the band took some time before they landed Argentinian singer Ignacio Rodriguez (Iggy Rod). Iggy Rod adds a new dimension of intensity and subtlety to the band's sound and with him, they do sound different than with PelleK. The main creative motor behind the band's music, guitarist Will Graney ("The Maestro"), delivers once again strong riffs and hooks, as well as technically smooth solos, but perhaps the songs on this album are best remembered for their anthemic choruses.

"A Fiber of Our Being" will likely please fans of several types of hard-rock and melodic heavy metal, but could also disappoint some. The three bands, which Damnation Angels resemble in this album, are Kamelot, The Rasmus, and Royal Hunt. The attempt to produce a more modern sound within the traditional melodic power metal universe reminds of Kamelot's recent albums. On the other hand, unlike Kamelot's diverse use of keyboards, Damnation Angels tend to stick to a much more limited blend of keyboard sounds. The added pop/electronic elements in some of the songs at times make the sound very Rasmus-esque, but Iggy Rod's more intense and slightly hoarse vocals add a different dimension altogether from that of Lauri Ylönen's voice. Then, the orchestrated keyboards and symphonic elements in songs like "Rewrite the Future" and "Remnants of a Dying Star" sound remarkably like Royal Hunt. There are also echoes of older hard-rock titans, such as Rainbow.

Several songs stand out--the title track, "A Fiber of Our Being," the tempo-changing "Greed and Extinction," and the closing track, "A Sum of Our Parts." The epic "Remnants of a Dying Star" is perhaps too long at 13:00 minutes, although the second part of the song features multi-layered instrumentation that rises and rises in intensity. Many of the songs also feature the band's trademark long choir-like backing vocals (reminiscent of Coldplay's Chris Martin). There are two ballads, "Our Last Light" and "A Sum of Our Parts," with the latter one being the stronger (its beginning is memorably ambient by featuring female vocals and a cello).

Overall, the album mixes adeptly melodic power metal with symphonic elements, as well as returns back to a more classical stadium/hard rock sound with infusion of pop-rock moments. The choruses are strong and stick after just one listen. But, there are also moments, in which some of the songs feel like they could use a better mixing in order to bring out Graney's guitar more, or in order to make Iggy Rod's main vocal lines clearer. Furthermore, those who favor progressive metal are likely to remain disappointed by this album due to the band's notable scaling back of progressive elements (in comparison to their previous albums). I suspect that if this is your first Damnation Angels album, you will be pleasantly surprised by how skilled Graney's guitar playing is. His solos in this album, however, while technically good, are not particularly inspiring or all that memorable. Iggy Rod's strong vocal delivery of the choruses is the element, in my opinion, that is most noticeable here.

In an old interview, PelleK (the previous singer) mentioned that Graney wrote songs very slowly and very meticulously. It took Damnation Angels five years to release "A Fiber of Our Being" (the album was actually recorded in 2019) and the time spent in perfecting the songs lead to a strong output (with some weaker moments, as noted above). In the end, is this album better than the previous ones? Personally, I don't think so, mostly due to the scaling back of progressive elements and due also to the infusion of more pop/electronica. But, Iggy Rod's addition worked out really well and I remain interested in the band's future work.

Good modern melodic metal album with symphonic/prog ambitions - 65%

lukretion, July 31st, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Independent

Fiber of Our Being, the third full-length release of UK metallers Damnation Angels, is one of those albums that make you question the usefulness of ratings in album reviews. I could have rated this album either 80% or 40%, depending on the way I approach it. On the one hand, it is an excellent album of modern melodic metal that could appeal to fans of bands like Amaranthe, CyHra and similarly inclined pop-metal acts. But, on the other hand, it disappoints if evaluated through the ears of a symphonic/progressive metal fan. Fiber of Our Being is an album that tries to strike a balance between these two worlds, not unlike Kamelot (Damnation Angels' most audible influence) have tried to do in their last couple of releases. To paraphrase the title of Fiber of Our Being's final song, the end result is the sum of its parts: a 65% that is the average between 80% and 40%, plus extra points for bringing in some subtle but refreshing hard-rock/AOR influences in a couple of songs.

The nine songs that form Fiber of Our Being seem to follow a straightforward guiding principle: to deliver the most infectious and catchy choruses as possible. And the good news is that Damnation Angels fully succeed in this. The album is packed with melodic hooks and outstanding choruses, of the kind that it is irresistible not to sing along to and that remain engraved in your head long after you have heard them. This success is in part due to new singer Iggy Rodriguez's vocal delivery, which is impeccable: extremely technical, but also full of subtleties and emotional layers. His range is excellent and his tone can be compared to a slightly grittier, more hard-rock version of Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder), with a touch of Dan Tompkins (Tesseract) in the quieter passages. I particularly liked the injection of AOR/hard-rock sensibilities in some of his vocal lines, like on "More Than Human" or "Railrunner", that help keep the band's sound apart from Kamelot, which would otherwise be a too dominant influence.

The structure of the songs, the production, and the music itself, are masterfully crafted to ensure that the climactic choruses achieve maximum effect. Damnation Angels use all tricks of the trade to attain this result: anticipation of the main melody of the chorus in the first few bars of a song. Check. Quieter verses that are dark and understated to create maximal contrast with the bright, uplifting choruses. Check. Simple and sparse arrangements on the verses that then gradually swell to full-volume as we approach the chorus, creating a mighty cathartic effect. Check. Symphonic orchestrations that add dramatic tension to the crucial passages. Check. The album truly feels like a textbook lesson on how to write songs that are impactful and immediately likeable.

Unfortunately, the features that make Fiber of Our Being work extremely well as a pop/melodic metal album, are also those that make it falter as a prog-tinged symphonic metal release. The simplicity and linearity of the arrangements mean that, musically, there isn't an awful lot going on in the songs. The guitars are essentially relegated to a rhythmic role, chugging away in the background with varying degrees of intensity. Sure, there are the occasional solos, but frankly they do not sound particularly inspired or memorable. Same story for the rhythmic session: it comes across as competent but fairly anonymous. The orchestral arrangements are very prominent and dramatic, but quite basic. The impression I get is that, in putting the vocals centre-stage, the band have (consciously or unconsciously) demoted all other instrumentation to a background role, which makes the album not very appealing to those who appreciate layered, rich and complex compositions. The other problem I have with this approach is that the songs end up sounding quite similar to one another. They all have the same structure, dynamics and arrangements, making the album feel rather one-dimensional. There is a slight increase in pace around the middle ("Rewrite the Future", "Fractured Amygdala", "Greed and Extinction"), but it's not enough to inject in the album a much-needed sense of moving-forward. The excessive length of the songs (most exceed the 5-minute mark), combined with their simplicity and repetitiveness, do not help either. That Fiber of Our Being does not work very well as a symphonic/prog metal album is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that the album is at its weakest when Damnation Angels try and push on their "progressive" side. The 13-minute long "Remnants of a Dying Star" is supposed to be the "magnum opus" of the album, but it falls flat, sounding repetitive and directionless.

I do not want this criticism to come across as too negative, though, because Damnation Angels are a very talented bunch and Fiber of Our Being is an album that is very easy to instinctively like and enjoy. It is just a little bit hard to make it also work at a deeper, more cerebral level, which is what I would expect from a prog-dabbling, symphonic metal release. In a way, it may just be too difficult to appeal to both fans of modern melodic pop-metal and the symphonic/progressive crowd, and Damnation Angels may be better off by picking one of the two camps and sticking with it. Given their excellent ear for catchy melodic hooks, if Damnation Angels were to cut back on their progressive ambitions and write songs that are shorter and a little bit more diverse from one another, I believe they could truly make a dent in the modern melodic metal landscape, and Fiber of Our Being certainly represents a solid step in this direction!

(Originally written for The Metal Observer)