Friday 28 July 2023

Legion of the Damned - Poison Chalice (2023)

Country: The Netherlands
Style: Thrash/Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 9 Jun 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website | Twitter | YouTube

Here's another album from a band I've reviewed before that does pretty much the same thing in pretty much the same way. Legion of the Damned are Dutch and they've been around since 2005, a further thirteen years before that as Occult. They play a hybrid of thrash and death metal that's a lot more focused on the thrash side of that, with a little death as a texture, mostly in the vocals of Maurice Swinkels. Last time out was Slaves of the Shadow Realm in 2019, their seventh album, and that makes this their eighth.

I haven't heard that since reviewing it, but most of what I said about it holds true here. However, I clearly like it a little more than its predecessor, because this is a 7/10 for me rather than the 6/10 I gave to that one. Their biggest drawback is that the songs are so similar in approach that they blur together into a solid clump of metal that cleans out our systems for three quarters of an hour and then ends.

Maybe they're doomed to that middle ground where they're clearly very good at what they do but what they do is so invariable that a stronger album will be a 7 and a lesser one will be a 6. They're just too good and too consistent to drop any lower but too unwilling to vary their formula to climb any higher. And, while I'd usually see that as a negative, it can sometimes be a positive. There are days when I want to sit back and close my eyes and deep dive into the music, eager to hear things I have never heard before. However, there also days when I just want to show up to a gig and let the band bludgeon me into oblivion for an hour. Legion of the Damned seem like a good choice for the latter.

What that means to the listener is reliability. Every song here, and there are ten on offer, blisters along at a thrash pace and ought to generate some serious activity in the pit. Maybe Skulls Adorn the Traitor's Gate is a little faster and a little more emphatic than the rest, but it's a close call. I'd definitely call out the solos in the middle of this one as the most furious on the album though. It's an impeccable song that reminds me just how much I love thrash metal, as if I'd ever forget. On the other end of a very short spectrum, maybe The Poison Chalice closes out with a little less emphasis and a little more atmosphere. For a while, it's more Seasons of the Abyss than Reign in Blood, but it ramps up to the usual tempo soon enough.

And while that comparison is fair, it speaks specifically to the distance between a band's extremes rather than between that band and this. The sound here is always Teutonic, so Kreator are the key comparison rather than Slayer or anyone else American, and when they move away from a Kreator sound for a moment, it's only to go as far as Destruction. The only real difference is the added dab of death, which is there in the tone being a little deeper and in the added growl in Swinkel's voice.

For an album almost inherently devoid of anything interesting for a critic to say—either you'll love this or you won't—that's about it. There's nothing much else to add. So there's a softer intro to the opener, Saints in Torment? It doesn't matter. When the intro's done thirty seconds or so in, Legion of the Damned leap immediately up to full gear and stay there pretty much throughout. Do I have a favourite track? Not really. Maybe Skulls Adorn the Traitor's Gate because of those killer solos. It seems fair to call out Progressive Destructor too as so quintessential Teutonic thrash that it almost felt like I knew the vocal cadences on a first listen. It's a textbook.

Bottom line: this is good stuff. It's just the same good stuff throughout. Do you care?

No comments:

Post a Comment