Thursday, July 29, 2010

Damien Breed - Ave Satani (1994)

As the 90s battered on, it soon became a test of strength and will for nearly any surviving thrash band to persist in their career, much less attempt to begin one. The 'fallout' period would see a number of late comers falling directly on their faces, the relatively unknown Damien Breed among them, but unlike much of the uninspired rabble that were half the reason the genre couldn't hold out, here was a band who actually had a touch of originality and could have evolved into a worthwhile band. They did evolve into something, but it was called Seelenwinter, abandoning the short-lived Damien Breed brand and signing with Massacre Records, earning them some small measure of success, and leaving behind the 7 year career that culminated in this sole full-length shot in the dark.

The Germans stood out a little for their approach which tended to consist of dark, brief intros of clean guitars that would transform into slowly paced thrash rhythms with a progressive element. The guitars can rarely be accused of storming along in typical style for this genre, but very carefully working themselves upon the listener while Olaf Schultz' dark, accented lyrics weave tales of horror and despair. The guy does a number of vocals, including a clean tone, an almost death metal tone, and a deep, nasally tone which reminds me of other European thrashers like Midas Touch, Vendetta, etc. The mix of eerie synthesizers into the steady, largely slow to mid paced thrashing creates a genuine touch, as this is a concept album dealing with the classic Omen films about the spawn of Satan to mortal humans and the 'problems' that evolve out of such a relationship.

An intro, "Prophecy" develops into a tight, picked regiment before the deep, almost cerebral "Conspiracy" explodes with simple but effective thrashing riffs and Schultz's mix of narrative and ritual chorus repetitions. I was very heavily reminded of Midas Touch, who had a similar if slightly more technical element to their music, with comparable riff style. "The Evil Inside" begins like an elegy before a mix of uplifting muted rhythms, spooky muted breakdowns and a few gang shout backing vocals. It's a little long, but I do enjoy the solo breakdown around 4:30. "The Warning of the Priest" has a more melodic, storming feeling, picking up some steam, but the band doesn't really explode into faster territory until "The Sign", which reminds me of Mekong Delta's earlier material, and at points a marginal helping of Deathrow's Deception Ignored: bursts of well structured, melodic riffing that obeys convention and yet shifts into the realm of the abstract. This is one of the better songs here, followed by the creeping and pretty "(It's Time Damien) The Revelation" which does also not disappoint. The rest of the album is sadly average, but not devoid of nuance.

Ave Satani is one of those cases where each disparate element of the writing could have just used a little more push. The riffs are decent, but there are not enough of them, or they are just not as powerful as they might have been. The composition flows pleasantly through between lighter and darker segments, providing an aural narrative to the films, but you always wish it were that much scarier. The production is alright, but the vocals seem disheveled and often tripping over the accent of their bearer. It's a shame that the band would change faces, because they had a half-decent name here which seems to draw the attentions, and if they'd considered continuing into the realm of cerebral, horror thrash concepts, perhaps exploring other classics like Dracula, The Exorcist or Frankenstein, they might have build a reputation. Then again, this might have been a one shot from its conception. We may never know. Ave Satani is not a good record, but its worth hearing once if you're into all things German, thrash and obscure, like Depressive Age, Mekong Delta, Vendetta, Assassin, Deathrow and the like.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10] (cast out of Heaven)

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