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Divine Darkness (1994)
 

For a band that was, supposedly, formed as a Bathory tribute project, one can hardly tell when listening to Damnation's Divine Darkness demo. Released in October 1994, this collection of songs owes most of its sound to the Second Wave, having very little to do with the old school sound of the '80s. Of course, a lot probably happened between the formation of the band around 1989 and this recording, which fits in well with the other melodic Black Metal efforts that other Swedish bands were creating around this time.

For the most part, the material here is centered around cold tremolo melodies, driven forward by a pulsing beat that never relents. Songs like "Eternal Black" and the title track would not have been out of place on an album from Sacramentum or Unanimated. This makes sense, as two of the members were also in Unanimated around this time. The prime difference is that this is more Black Metal-oriented, rather than featuring only some of these elements within a mostly Death Metal framework, as one would find on In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead. The music is pretty good, though not the most original and the production allows the percussion to distract from the guitar riffs, somewhat.

The cover of Bathory's "The Return of the Darkness and Evil" is done fairly well, but does not hold a candle to the original. That is not so much of an insult to Damnation as just pointing out the supreme quality of Quorthon's work. The song seems to be a take on the version found on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation, and it remains faithful with the exception of the lackluster lead solo, near the end. This one tune is the main thing connecting the band's initial formation with the material that would come later on.

Divine Darkness is a pretty good demo, but many other bands were doing the same style much better, in 1994. Had Damnation never reappeared, they would be remembered only for being yet another melodic Black Metal band from Sweden that did nothing original. Fortunately, they returned in 2004 with an E.P. and a full-length album that were much more in line with the old school spirit embodied by the early works of Bathory. It is rare to say, but this is one time when you are better off picking up the later efforts of a band.
 
(23 Jan. 2012)

 
 

Destructo Evangelia is the first and, so far, only full-length album from Damnation. Released by Threeman Recordings, in August 2004, this L.P. contains forty minutes of occult Swedish Black Metal. Originally started by Peter Stjärnvind as a Bathory tribute band, Damnation released a single demo in 1994, before vanishing into thin air. The quality of the material was superior to that of many full albums being released around the same time. Thankfully, ten years after emerging from the nothingness with Divine Darkness, Damnation returned to produce another offering of real Black Metal.

The record begins with "Invocation of Storms", an intro that starts out with the sounds of thunder roaring across the skies, as a mid-paced riff slowly rises from the depths. After some time, the guitars fade away and leave only the warlike pounding of the drums. In many ways, this can be seen as a warning. All those seeking something with slick production or gothic elements should run away, at once.

"Insulter of Jesus Christ!" is the first proper song, and it introduces the listener to the primitive and hideous sound of Damnation. Clocking in at a little over two and a half minutes, this song is fast-paced and sounds quite similar to something that one would find on Bathory's debut album. The vocals are hateful and the music is raw, with riffs that show equal inspiration from Motörhead and GBH. Though, in all likelihood, this is purely a result of being so influenced by Quorthon, who looked to such bands when forming Bathory.

The next song is "Night Eternal", which starts out with mid-paced riffs that are accompanied by double-bass underneath, though nicely buried in the mix. Soon enough, the speed picks up and the track is dominated by tremolo riffs and blast beats. Richard "Daemon'" Cabeza's vocals are harsh, yet one can still hear traces of a human voice within the unholy invocations. A few minutes into the song, the band takes liberties with an actual Bathory riff. However, rather than mimicking their heroes as closely as Darkthrone did on their earlier albums, Damnation takes this and builds upon it in a logical way. Speaking of the oldschool Norwegians, the fast-paced riffs that follow sound quite a bit like something from Under A Funeral Moon.

The title track begins with a mixture of riffs that actually call to mind mid-period Darkthrone, going from a mid-paced Bathory riff to a cold tremolo melody. As the song progresses, it takes on a more typical Swedish feel, with guitar riffs that would not out of place on a Dissection or Watain album. The vocals are a bit more harsh and filled with anger. Later on, this vibe increases as sombre melody carries you deeper into the unknown depths of the abyss. The final moments of the song move at a rapid speed, with the drums pummeling you into oblivion while the ice-cold riffs freeze you all the way through.

"Life obliterated
The coming of the horde
Destructo evangelia
Death to life"

This is followed by "Bloody Vengeance", a cover of the well-known Vulcano track from 1986. This fits perfectly among the rest of the songs, possessing a very primitive feeling and being consumed with utter hatred. The malice and contempt in Daemon's voice does justice to the original, as does the musical performance of Peter Stjärnvind. A very good choice for a cover tune, and excellent execution.

"When Creation Dies" starts out at a blistering pace, with the raw and cold guitar riffs carving through you like blades of ice. Once again, there seems to be more of a Darkthrone influence on this particular song, from the organic production to the style of playing. This really shows few, if any, signs of being recorded and released at such a late date. So many of the riffs could have come straight from 1984, or maybe 1994 at the latest. The middle of the song slows down, with a frigid open-arpeggio riff that features a spoken word section. The tremolo melody that follows is about as cold as it gets and the track possesses a somewhat similar feel to Watain's Casus Luciferi, at this point. The dismal atmosphere lasts for the rest of the song, as it very slowly fades away.

Next up is "Eternal Black", which is a re-recorded version of a song that appeared on the Divine Darkness demo tape. For the most part, this sticks very close to the original. The sound quality is much better, which is odd to say since the production here is so raw and underground. The guitars are much more easily heard, as the drumming does not dominate the mix this time around. Of all the material on this album, this really embodies the mid-90's Swedish sound, pretty well. These riffs would have suited a Dissection album just as easily as Vinterland, Sacramentum or Unanimated. This one maintains a fairly high speed, all the way through, with a brief rest period, with arctic tremolo melodies that freeze your blood in the veins.

The album ends with a cover of Bathory's "Armageddon". The guitar tone is not as nasty or threatening, and the vocals lack the inhuman feeling that Quorthon possessed, but this is a decent rendition of a classic Black Metal song. It is rather difficult to compete with one of the masters, but Damnation does well to pay tribute to the mighty goat and it blends in, seamlessly, with the rest of the tracks.

With Destructo Evangelia, Damnation has done nothing unique or groundbreaking. However, they offer up a primitive slab of oldschool Black Metal. Everything here is done the right way, with really no room for complaints. Fans of Bathory and Darkthrone will, undoubtedly, appreciate the raw sound and genuine approach taken by this Swedish band. If you have not heard this yet, do yourself a favour and pick it up as soon as possible.
 
(21 Jan. 2012)
















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