Damnation Angels - Bringer of light 4/5
1. Ad finem
2. The longest day of my life
4. I hope
5. Acerbus inceptum (pt. I)
6. Someone else (pt. II)
7. Bringer of light (pt. III)
8. Shadow symphony (pt. IV)
9. No leaf clover
10. Pride (The warrior’s way)
Now this is a real breath of fresh air. The U.K. has more thrash and extreme metal bands these days than you could shake a stick at, but power metal remains an elusive beast on these shores and full-blown symphonic metal is virtually a no-go. We just don’t do that. That’s for the Europeans. It sadly comes as no surprise then that Doncaster’s Damnation Angles had to look as far afield as RadTone Music in Japan to secure distribution for their stunning debut full-length ‘Bringer of light’, but what a ray of light it proves to be, no matter how far away it happens to be shining from.
Right away you’ll notice the similarity to Kamelot, right down to the imported Norwegian vocalist. Per Fredrik Asly’s sort are a little more commonplace on the Scandinavian peninsula, but his heavenly tones are gold dust on these gloomy shores, and his presence is one of Damnation Angels’ defining aspects. Similar to the Floridian vets, they manage a healthy balance between cinematic booming, colourful melodies and soaring lead vocals and a bit of rhythmic groove not prepared to get lost in the swirling strings.
Damnation Angels take the approach a step further though, heading into territory shared by the likes of Epica - beyond simply accenting the existing songs, the orchestral sounds are fully locked into them and indeed play as big a part in most of them as the metal instrumentation does. This doesn’t mean that Damnation Angels fall into the trap that has existed as long as the symphonic metal genre in that they spend so much time composing the thunder that they forget to build an interesting foundation for it rumble over, though.
With that said, guitarist and mastermind Will Grainey has really dedicated himself to properly composing as full and complete an orchestral sound as possible, going beyond the standard shrieking strings and choirs to include as much foreboding brass and rumbling percussion as restraint and good taste would allow. On the occasions he shows what he can do as a lead player he proves no less capable, providing shimmering solos that add additional layers to the songs, but it’s fair to say the impressively detailed programming of the orchestral instruments was probably foremost in his mind.
The pair of 10-minute behemoths that open and close the CD proper are the ones that command the most attention, and for good reason. It is on “The longest day of my life” where the orchestral and metallic elements play off each other with the most intricacy, with a large metal-free bridge commanding much of the running time without the thread of the song getting lost. To counterpoint this though, the most overtly power metal aspects to the CD are also found here, the rhythm instruments galloping admirably and Asly stretching himself to the full on the majestic chorus.
At the other end of the CD, “Pride (The warrior’s way)”, takes a somewhat different tack though, with traditional Japanese music imbued into the song to match the Samurai story of the lyrics. A simple, highly addictive 4-note motif recurs throughout on programming and guitars both, and shows a subtler yet no less captivating side to the orchestral sounds.
It would be unfair to say that the shorter songs didn’t have as much effort put into them, but to put it in more diplomatic terms it’s easy to understand that with so much creative energy being channelled into the big hitters that a few others perhaps suffered just slightly for lack of attention. On a few occasions, Damnation Angels fall into the same trap as Kamelot have also done recently, with the rhythm guitar becoming little more than a space-filling buzz, but not to enough of a degree to be of serious detriment. It just means that some of the bombast is lost, and while most of the songs are truly excellent, there are a couple that can only be filed under ‘pretty good’.
I can’t finish the review without giving a quick mention to their cover of Metallica’s “No leaf clover”, a song I’ve flip-flopped on over the years and no doubt many a novice’s first foray into this sort of music. One thing they manage here is to show just how convincing the programmed instruments sound compared to the real-life symphony orchestra that recorded the original, with everything recreated to excellent detail. Asly also manages to recreate many of the original vocal inflections without falling into the redneck “hey-yeah-ah!” Hetfield croon that has always been the song’s biggest flaw, and the transposition of the opening guitar notes onto piano is a neat little twist as well.
Damnation Angels manage to do a few different things with ‘Bringer of light’. They show that symphonic metal isn’t only for bands on a massive budget. They also show that it’s not a style that is somehow region-specific and out of bounds in some territories. But most of all, they excite and entertain. This is a grand, adrenal debut CD that boasts stellar production values, musicianship and above all, composition.
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