Monday, January 23, 2012

Damnation - Divine Darkness (1994)

For a band that was, supposedly, formed as a Bathory tribute project, one can hardly tell when listening to Damnation's Divine Darkness demo. Released in October 1994, this collection of songs owes most of its sound to the Second Wave, having very little to do with the old school sound of the '80s. Of course, a lot probably happened between the formation of the band around 1989 and this recording, which fits in well with the other melodic Black Metal efforts that other Swedish bands were creating around this time.

For the most part, the material here is centered around cold tremolo melodies, driven forward by a pulsing beat that never relents. Songs like "Eternal Black" and the title track would not have been out of place on an album from Sacramentum or Unanimated. This makes sense, as two of the members were also in Unanimated around this time. The prime difference is that this is more Black Metal-oriented, rather than featuring only some of these elements within a mostly Death Metal framework, as one would find on In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead. The music is pretty good, though not the most original and the production allows the percussion to distract from the guitar riffs, somewhat.

The cover of Bathory's "The Return of the Darkness and Evil" is done fairly well, but does not hold a candle to the original. That is not so much of an insult to Damnation as just pointing out the supreme quality of Quorthon's work. The song seems to be a take on the version found on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation, and it remains faithful with the exception of the lackluster lead solo, near the end. This one tune is the main thing connecting the band's initial formation with the material that would come later on.

Divine Darkness is a pretty good demo, but many other bands were doing the same style much better, in 1994. Had Damnation never reappeared, they would be remembered only for being yet another melodic Black Metal band from Sweden that did nothing original. Fortunately, they returned in 2004 with an E.P. and a full-length album that were much more in line with the old school spirit embodied by the early works of Bathory. It is rare to say, but this is one time when you are better off picking up the later efforts of a band.