My first review for The Metal Asylum was Progressive Modern Metal and my second was Melodic Hard Rock so, for my third, I thought I would write about something a bit heavier and, boy, this is one brutally heavy album. “Damnum” was released back in February (don’t forget I’m playing catch-up this year), is the sixth full-length release from Denver, Colorado Technical Melodic Death Metallers, Allegaeon and it kicks some serious butt!
When it comes to Death Metal many bands leave me a bit cold, but Allegaeon have two things in their arsenal that make a huge difference to me, technicality and melody! In fact, I’m still trying to fathom out how such a brutal album can be so melodic but “Damnum” has melody in spades. I also have their previous album “Apoptosis” in my collection and, as good as that was, the material here is raised to the next level because of melody. Whatever the genre (by the way I’m not a fan of genre tags and use them in reviews only to help those of you who do find them important), melody is king and Allegaeon prove that you do not have to sacrifice it to make modern, extreme music. A good deal of that melody comes from guitarists Greg Burgess and Michael Stance. Their riffs, hooks and solos are insanely good, just listen to the guitar work and solo in opener “Bastards Of The Earth” for proof, but they couple that with incredible technicality and even though the guitars have the grunt of two rhinos on steroids it’s all so beautifully clean and clear.
Another thing that makes “Damnum” a superior album to its predecessor is the arrival of drummer Jeff Saltzman to Allegaeon and he has injected new life, speed, intensity and technicality into the band. I drummed in bands for many years but am self-taught and wasn’t hugely flamboyant, I could never hope to compete with the technicality and speed of many modern metal drummers, but it is always the first thing I hear & listen to when digesting an album for the first time and Saltzman blew me away with his precision and diversity. His blast beats (something else which can leave me cold if overused) are exceptional and his teamwork with bass player Brandon Michael is spot on.
Now we come to the vocals of Riley McShane. These days there are thousands of harsh, screaming and growling vocalists and you cannot get away from the fact that many of them sound the same but Riley seems to possess about half a dozen different vocal styles and utilises all of them extremely well throughout the album, including an inhumane growl that resembles Godzilla rampaging through Japan and a very good singing voice, when the need arises. They all melt beautifully into one another and, again, none are overused. The tracks on “Damnum” that, probably, contain everything that Allegaeon have to offer as a band, at their most extreme and diverse, is ‘The Dopamine Void Pts 1&2, they are magnificent.
That brings me to the final thing I want to say, for now, about Allegaeon. Many bands, especially in extreme genres, turn everything up to 11 from the word go and do not relent until an album finishes, constantly trying to prove, to the listener, that they are the heaviest, most brutal or fastest band around. When that happens, the result is, usually, tedium and overload. Allegaeon are the complete opposite of that. They know exactly when to let a track breathe and to give the music space. There are some beautiful quieter and slower sections on “Damnum”. These not only allows you to really appreciate the level of musicianship but they also make the, already brutal, parts sound even more intense. It is a lesson that every band should learn and use.
“Damnum” is an essential release for fans of the genre but I urge others, who might not usually listen to music this heavy, to give Allegaeon a chance. You may be surprised at just how gorgeous brutality can be sometimes!
01. Bastards Of The Earth
02. Of Beasts And Worms
03. Into Embers
04. To Carry My Grief Through Torpor And Silence
06. Called Home
08. The Dopamine Void Pt. 1
09. The Dopamine Void Pt. 2
11. In Mourning
12. Only Loss
Greg Burgess – Guitar
Michael Stancel – Guitar
Riley McShane – Vocals
Brandon Michael – Bass
Jeff Saltzman – Drums
This review is purely the property of Richard Tilley and The Metal Asylum