Monday, May 17, 2010

Domain/Demonized - Hellbirth split album

Domain/Demonized - Hellbirth split album
2001, American Line Productions

Two Mexican bands playing in a loosely similar style, six songs of blackened death attack, collected beneath some of the best cover/record art I have seen in some time. That's this release in a nutshell. To elaborate:

Domain, who start out this disc, begin the proceedings with an atmospheric intro which I am guessing was stolen from a Tim Burton movie soundtrack - I can't exactly place it and I'm not going to go research this in depth, but I'm guessing it's from 'Sleepy Hollow', as I seem to remember the credits (swirling and coalescing out of the mist) at the beginning of the movie appearing over something vaguely like this. Then again, it might just be from 'Army of Darkness'. A choral set piece, voices swelling to a slow crescendo, and a marching, martial rhythm that appears as a surprise attack to counterbalance the sweetness and light of the first moments. Soon after this, a pause setting in, Domain launch straight into their first song, 'Supreme Conquest', which not only is nicely bookended at the terminus of this 'warning' intro - the ideas here flowing professionally, as darkness comes to crush the innocent - but which just happens to be the best track of the work, showing not only the most variety in riffing technique and a rhythmic mastery, but also the most shades/textures of melody. Domain contribute two other songs to this recording (which, by the way, seem to have a different production than the first, pointing either to a different recording or mastering process, or at least a different mastering session - the guitar sound changes one hundred percent between the first and second song), the all-out blistering assault of 'The Cursed' and the even more nihilistic, distortion-drenched, grinding ending opus 'War of Dominion'. From these song titles and what I have said at the beginning of this review, you should have a pretty clear picture in your head of what kind of music this is: abrasive, boiling, virulent, evil blackened death metal - extremely violent, and transcendently dark in melodic impact.

Domain do not waste much time in building sections of lyrical transport or attempting atmospheric bridges to take your mind to other times and places...all of the atmosphere that is available here comes from the guitar sound, the timbre and echo of guest vocalist Antimo's scathing throat (he sounds a lot like The Chasm's Daniel Corchado here, by the way), and the basic roots of these melodies, which flow over each other as if in a manic race to the ends of the songs. The reason that I rate the first track 'Supreme Conquest' so highly, in fact, is just because out of all these compositions it has not only the most transition sections/speed changes, etc. but it has the darkest melodies of all the rest...it is simply a beautiful song. Structurally, it also seems to be the most well thought-out, and proceeds in a fashion that is instinctive and traditional, which in no way reduces its rabid impact. Throughout these acid-drenched, cruelly raw tracks, the drumming (a virtual cyclone of intense blasts and strange fills) is one of the highlights...actually all of the instrumental contributions are highlights, come to think of it, as this is just a very talented ensemble.

Demonized, on the other hand, are a little more 'experimental', meaning in this case just that their style has not come together completely yet. It tends to warp and metamorphosize through their three contributions (one of which is a cover of 'Metal Church'), from a North American midwest-influenced deathgrind to a sort of early Carcass-inspired blasting chaos (yes, there is a difference), and then on to an even more brutal or caustic form of chainsaw savagery, on the very edge of flying apart at the seams. This band features basically the same musicians that are in Domain, but their direction here is a little less focused than on the first tracks on this recording. The promo sheet that arrived from American Line with this disc said that Demonized also features a members (or members) from the supremely sick death band Disgorge, but I can't place exactly who that is in the line-up - I believe it's the vocalist Antimo, but I could be wrong. It doesn't really matter, however, as the music here really isn't that different from either Disgorge or Domain in any case, being sort of a cross (as you would expect) between the 'putrefied sludge' of the former and the 'blackened inferno' of the latter...the only difference, really, are the raspy vocals here and the much simpler guitar riffs...

The best part of this entire album, though, for me (besides Domain's first song), has to be the great cover artwork, which truly has to be seen to be believed. Consisting completely of dark blood red, black, and gold tones (gold belonging to the logos and song titles - both these bands have amazing logos, by the way), and being a scene of murderous battle itself, the art makes a statement of savage, bestial violence before you even hear the music....

I don't want to say any more to give this recording away too much, but I'll just add that if you are an enthusiast of the stormier, creative elements in traditional black/death metal, and wish there could be a return to the days when all death metal bands were gloriously, unapologetically Satanic, war-mongering, and nihilistic - following the path that Angelcorpse were on before they self-destructed - look no further than this release. It will satisfy you.

Definitely Recommended