Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Damnation - Rebel Souls (1996)

Most people into death metal nowadays have heard of Poland's Azarath, and if they haven't surely Inferno, Behemoth's drummer, rings a bell. Comparatively few know that, in 1996, when Azarath didn't even exist and Nergal&co were still firmly in the realm of (rather generic if you ask me) black metal, Inferno and Azarath's guitarist Bart were part of not-very-imaginatively-named Damnation. Under that ubiquitous moniker (metal-archives mentions 12 other Damnations) an album called Rebel Souls was released that year.

Of course, with a name like that, one can safely say that Morbid Angel would rank among the leading influences without even listening to the record. And they would be right, but a clone this is not. It doesn't take long to notice that the structure is dynamic, expansive, almost epic rather than thrashy, progressive or deconstructive. Spacey keys and solos with lots of reverb punctuate the dense riffage but what really holds the album together is Inferno's drumming. While there are some slower fills and patterns, "incessant pounding" wouldn't be a very innacurate description, as just a few seconds into the first proper track he's already blasting away as he is in the very last moments of the closer, Might Returns. That's not to say the guitars, bass or vocals come lacking - everything falls well into it's place and the blend of agression and melody (there's not a lot of it, don't worry) works.

Not just that, but Rebel Souls really feels like an album, not a bunch of songs (or worse, an agglomeration of ideas). I would be hard pressed to come up with tracks or parts of them as highlights. Sure, one tends to remember the catchy choruses more because, well, they're catchy but neither them nor the ultra-fast bit of Son of Fire, not even the almost-atmospheric part of the title track would hold any value without the lead-ins. And that brings me to the only possible defect of Rebel Souls - where I see its flowing, homogeneous nature others might see monotony but I guess that depends on what you're actually looking for.
All in all, if you're looking for some Polish death metal released before 90% of it started sounding the same or for a quality slab of the genre in general, this is a safe bet. And if you like it, get the other two full lengths by Damnation, they're both a bit different but well worth it. And get Azarath.


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