Sound — 9
Here's a local band from my city of Winnipeg that I'd like to share with you all. I don't have any anecdotes so I'm going to get right to it. Damascus takes a smattering of influences from across the metal soundscape and blends them together to make a very balanced, crushing, melodic, groovy, and even beautiful piece of work. Elements of death, black, thrash, progressive, grindcore, and hardcore are utilized to great effect. The guitar lines are littered with harmonized and tremolo picked riffs, as well as heavy rhythmic sections with way cool tempo changes. I also love how the bass sounds on this album: so deep and heavy. You can always hear that it's there. And of course there are the few breakaway bass riffs throughout the album creating those "f**k yeah" *groove-face* moments. The drumming is tight and skilled, and fits perfectly into the mould of the band. It's never overbearing like you may hear in many of today's metal bands. The mix and production on this album make for a very listenable experience. I wouldn't change a thing about it. What Damascus brings to the table is great songwriting. Each song has a little something to set it apart from the others. Songs range in length from 2-13 minutes. Some focus on no holds barred, pounding riffage, while others bring beautifully crafted melodies and progressive sections. I get the impression that In Flames is up there on their list of influences. One of the coolest songs would be "Corpse Exhumed By The Season Of Rebirth": an acoustic piece featuring black metal vocals. It's so beautiful and chill... Yet it's so metal. It leads into the next track, "Burial In The Emerald Season", which revs things back up with a monster riff. You'll want to crank the up volume when it hits.
Lyrics — 8
So let's talk about vocals. The front man Trevor is insanely versatile and has a great range. Perhaps not as much as someone like "Stu Block (Into Eternity)", with the higher register kind of singing, but he's got the metal genre well covered. Deep inhuman "Rrrr-rrrr" growls, mid-high range screams, black metal rasps... And then out of nowhere, comes the surprisingly good singing. Singing which is used sparingly for maximum effect. It avoids becoming a clich, giving the songs just what they need. As far as lyrics go, the ones that can be made out are well written. They tend to have a poetic vibe about them, some with a more brutal tone. The song "Damascus Trail" is really enhanced by the bleak story depicted: "She died in flames, the book was to blame". The way they're delivered just hits you right in the diaphragm.
Overall Impression — 9
To sum this album up: Melodic yet also very heavy. It contains poetic lyrics with dark and powerful themes that paint a vivid picture. The songwriting is varied from straight forward to more complex, progressive structures. Amazing versatile vocals throughout. Great quality production for an independent band as well. My absolute favorite songs off of this CD would be: "Slattern Decapitated", "Queen's Death In The Season Of Ivory", and "Corpse Exhumed In The Season Of Rebirth". And then there is "Damascus Trail" and "Black Seas Of Downward Skies", the two longest and most epic tracks to bring the album to a satisfying conclusion. I'm sure I've played this CD in my car over 100 times, it just doesn't get old. Hopefully this review will bring some more attention to a great independent band, and they will get off of their a--es and put another album out already... because I'm waiting. Check these guys out; the songs are up on YouTube and Myspace.