Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Legion of the Damned - Slaves of the Shadow Realm (2019)



Country: The Netherlands
Style: Thrash/Death Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 3 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website | Wikipedia

This is album eight for Legion of the Damned but album thirteen if you count the five they recorded earlier under the name of Occult. Legion of the Damned is a much better name and they've proved that they're not fools when it comes to marketing. After all, who else but a band from Holland could get away with including a branded cheese block with the special edition of their 2008 album, Cult of the Dead? Clearly it worked, as I've never seen one but I'm still talking about it a decade later in this review.

I'm new to this band, but I liked them immediately. They play thrash/death metal, but that just means that they sound more like Kreator than Destruction. Well, except when they don't because there's a lot of Destruction here too! I wonder how their sound has evolved since 1992. On the face of this album only, I'd call them thrash metal with a bit of death here and there, mostly in the vocal style.

There's very little variation here. Shadow Realm of the Demonic Mind kicks off with a soft piano intro and that hammers home that we're on track seven and we haven't really paused for breath until now except for chugging sections in songs like Slaves of the Southern Cross. There's an intro to Priest Hunt too that sounds more like power metal and an outro to Dark Coronation (and the album as a whole) that follows suit. The big question here is whether you see the lack of variation as a good thing or a bad thing and either opinion is valid.

On the positive side, this is good stuff and it'll kick your ass for three quarters of an hour. These guys know how to play and they have a lot of years doing that together. Vocalist Maurice Swinkels and drummer Erik Fleuren have been performing together since the very beginning as Occult in 1992. Harold Gielen joined in 2006 and has only missed one album, making Twan van Geel the new guy, even though he's been with the band since 2011. I'd love to see this band live because they ought to absolutely blister.

On the negative side, the eleven songs sound so similar that they blur together, even after three or four times through the album. Maybe The Widow's Breed is played at a little more of a breakneck speed than the rest and Slaves of the Southern Cross chugs a little more. Maybe Charnel Confession sounds a bit more old school and Black Banners in Flames has a bit more interesting overlays.

It does make it hard to call out favourites though. In many ways, all this would have needed to become a single 45 minute track is the careful editing out of gaps and the ditching of a couple of intros. And, like I said, that may or may not be a bad thing. If you just want this to clean your clock, it'll do that. If you want to explore it, though, you're not going to find much in tracks two to eleven that you didn't find in track one.

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