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Kingdom of Endless Darkness (1995)
 

Like some of the other bands in the Hellenic scene, Legion of Doom started out playing a rather boring form of Death Metal. However, by the time they released their debut album, 1995's Kingdom of Endless Darkness, Mortuary and Demogorgon had shifted the band's style more in line with the Second Wave Black Metal sound that was spawned in the north. This record has little or nothing to do with the typical style played by the likes of Rotting Christ or Varathron.

Musically, Kingdom of Endless Darkness seems to owe a great deal to the Norwegian bands that preceded them. In particular, many of the riffs are reminiscent of early Burzum and Darkthrone. Upon first listen, this comes off as being rather generic and one may be quick to write the band off as merely another copycat outfit that listened to Hvis Lyset Tar Oss or Transilvanian Hunger too many times. (This is especially obvious during "The Desecration", which makes use of a familiar-sounding synth line and a guitar melody that seems lifted from "Det Som En Gang Var".) While the overall approach is similar, being rather minimalist with the fast tremolo melodies, grim vocals and high-speed drum programming, there is a level of quality to the songwriting that is absent in the case of many that hoped to mimic the hordes of the north. The manner in which the riffs are constructed displays the skill of the musicians, as they are able to create such a dark and menacing atmosphere with so little. Most of the songs are relatively brief, though the title track is over fifteen minutes in length. This one offers subtle changes in the main theme that slowly unfold, as the song progresses. Much like Burzum's older works, this allows the listener to be pulled in and put in an almost trance-like state as the guitar melodies wash over them and the atmosphere starts to bleed forth. Also of interest is the track's placement within the album, coming second rather than at the beginning or end of the record, which is more traditional for such epics. The rest of the songs are below average in length, by any standard, yet they manage to accomplish nearly as much as the title track. Each one maintains a similar style, being rather straightforward and rarely straying from the consistent pace that is established early on. The one song that stands out the most is "The Black Queen", mainly due to the sheer bleakness and overwhelmingly dismal atmosphere created by the main riff. It also has a little more room to develop, as it stretches a little beyond five minutes.

The production is pretty grim for its time, moreso when considering how many bands were already offering up more polished and fake-sounding albums by this point. There is a decent level of fuzz that remains throughout the whole record. The drum machine is fairly easy to detect, but not because of its level in the mix. It may have been hidden a slight bit more, but there was no real need for that. It was common enough, among some of the Hellenic Black Metal bands, to utilize such things in the absence of actual drummers. The vocals are kind of in the middle and rather difficult to decipher, though this is more a result of the style than the production. Again, this would seem run-of-the-mill and average to someone that did not pay close attention. However, the mix favours the guitars enough to allow the riffs to accomplish their intended goals.

For those that pick up a copy of Kingdom of Endless Darkness in order to hear more typical Hellenic Black Metal, you will be sorely disappointed. It is simple to tell that Legion of Doom were far more influenced by Burzum than Rotting Christ. That said, there is still enough going on with this record to make it of interest to fans of either scene. Of all the bands to spring up around this time period, Legion of Doom were certainly among the more skilled. By 1995, many of the northern hordes were losing their way and churning out uninspired filth that only served to tarnish their legacies. However, the evil that once possessed them was still wreaking havoc from the dark corners of Europe. Toss the experimental / symphonic garbage aside and seek this out.
 
(3 Jan. 2012)

 
 

For Those of the Blood is the second full-length album from Legion of Doom. Released in 1997, this album may be responsible for the fact that the band never rose to the same level of notoriety as fellow Greek bands such as Rotting Christ or Necromantia. Rather than develop more of their own style, or even to adopt the type of approach that was being utilized by many in the Hellenic Black Metal scene, Legion of Doom continued to take their cues from the northern lands and made some of the same mistakes.

One cannot find many flaws in the songwriting department. As it compares to Kingdom of Endless Darkness, the basic material is in the same vein. However, there is much less of a Burzum influence on this record. Instead, most of the tremolo riffs and rapid drumming seem inspired by early Darkthrone, primarily, as well as Emperor and a few others from Norway. While it is not, necessarily, a bad thing that they still followed the lead of their Scandinavian heroes. This album introduces a very strong symphonic element that waters down the atmosphere and gives it a rather cheesy feeling. The synth is overused and done in an improper manner to begin with, taking away any possibility that the song had to maintain a dark feeling. Furthermore, the actual riffs are much more generic and less memorable. "Messenger..." manages to stand out among the rest of the average and mediocre tracks, mostly due to being more straightforward and placing the emphasis back on the guitars, where it belongs. "Κυρες" would be included in that, as well, but the percussion overpowers the riffs, at times. Legion of Doom still employed a drum machine, at this point, and they did not seem concerned with making sure it was buried in the mix.

As for the rest of the production, the overall sound is a little cleaner than on the previous album. The guitar tone, especially, lacks the raw edge that it possessed on Kingdom of Endless Darkness and loses a bit of character as a result. It comes off as a bit more smooth and polished, though it is still far from drowning in the typical modern, plastic sound. It actually sounds rather necro, if one compares it to an album like Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, for example. The drum machine is too high, taking a bit of the attention away from the guitar riffs. The grim vocals are still right where they should be, in relation to the guitars.

Skipping the instrumentals, there is less than half an hour of music on this album. Of that material, a good deal of it is tainted by symphonic nonsense that does nothing to add to the dark feeling that should have been the main goal of For Those of the Blood. In the end, this record represents a drop in quality from its predecessor. Less selective listeners may be able to look past its flaws, but I would say that this L.P. is somewhat disappointing and less worth the time to track down.
 
(6 Jan. 2012)
















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