Founded by bros. Kennedy in 2005, vocalist/guitarist Mark and sticksman Dean, who were then joined by guitarist Jon King seven years later, Aussie metallers Damnations Day are but a mere trio. Combining elements of thrash, power, prog and a ton of melody, they've succeeded in crafting a solid album, albeit one that I've found difficult to emotionally connect with in any kind of profound way. It seems they've done everything right - at least in terms of melodies and songs, which are all good in their own way... and it's melodies they evidently pride themselves on, as they declare themselves as "Australian melodic heavy metal". However, not all is right. Like I said, I can't find an emotional in to any of the songs which, while well written, left me feeling cold after each listen.
So, what's gone wrong? Well, Mark puts in an impressive, powerful vocal performance, from the very first notes sung early on during album opener 'The Witness'... although, as the album progress, it becomes evident that his voice does sound a little painfully stretched. When he hits those peaks during the real high notes, and while trying to sing them with a lot of power, the emotions can become a little two-dimensional. As such, a stretched voice is not an expressive one; at least, not as expressive as it could be. And he "peaks" far too often. It becomes quite grating after a while. It's such a shame because his vocals can be expressive in all kinds of interesting ways, when he's not pushing his voice to what sounds like its unnatural limits. For example, during 'Into Black', a mellower number where he sings over a predominantly clean guitar backing. Here, his voice sounds great at its higher end, as he's not pushing the power. In certain songs, his voice can be hit and miss. During parts of 'Diagnose', his vocals sound great, where vocal line, power, and emotion all combine congruously. However, his voice does seem to lapse into unadventurous, monotone, sustained notes, where he follows the song's chord progression without any kind of inventive divergence.
What else is at fault? The arrangements of songs, particularly the drumming, feel a little clinical and "by numbers" during some passages of music. Plus there's an overwhelming sense of rehash, where the band are walking down an already well-trodden path. While the songwriting is solid, it's also hideously clichéd. That, in itself, is not necessarily a negative point. Genre affiliation is rife across metal's fragmented plethora of subgenres, but it's the arrangements of their songs where they fall down a little. Combined with an all too often grating vocal performance, that's not a good combination.
On the plus side, the album has a very clean and crisp production, albeit a little sterile. Some people like sterility in music production, though, so that's not necessarily a bad point for all. Vocals and "safe" drumming aside, the musicianship is great, which is ultimately what keeps the whole album a listenable experience. Even when parts of certain songs sound not only generic, but borrowed... the intro of 'To Begin Again' is a little too close to Anathema for my liking.
There have been, and still are, some fantastic Australian innovative metal bands over the years - Alchemist; Voyager; Ne Obliviscaris; Alarum, to name but a few. Based on 'A World Awakens', Damnations Day are not quite there yet. That said, there's a ton of promise showcased on their latest, so I'm sure it won't be long before this antipodean crew come up with a work to rival that of their Aussie metal comrades. If you only listen to a very small range of metal bands, then 'A World Awakens' might be something of a revelation to you. However, ultimately, there's way better stuff out there than this. Look no further than Communic for an example of a rather fantastic power/thrash/prog trio.
A WORLD AWAKENS
Review by Mark Holmes
24th March 2017
1) The Witness
2) Dissecting the Soul
3) Colours of Darkness
4) I Pray
5) Into Black
6) To Begin Again
7) The Idol Counterfeit
8) A World Awakens
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...an overwhelming sense of rehash, where the band are walking down an already well-trodden path."