Friday, January 7, 2011

Legion of the Damned - Descent Into Chaos (2011)

Of all the death/thrash bands out there, Legion of the Damned are easily one of the most seasoned. They know by now what makes such a hybrid work or not work, and such can only be expected of a band with almost 20 years of history behind them. Five albums as Occult, and now five albums as Legion of the Damned; the Dutch have never strayed from the path of productivity, so I'm happy to report that Descent Into Chaos is one of the better efforts to date under their newer moniker, trumping their last studio album (in 2008) which was well meaning, but all too forgettable. It appears that taking a few years to recoup and spend more time on the individual songs has paid off, because the band were non-stop from Malevolent Rapture through Cult of the Dead.

All you've gotta know is that this is extremely meaty thrash, performed with simple mechanics, that draws upon clear German influences ala Sodom, Kreator and Destruction. Naturally, the specter of Slayer hangs above the recording, but it hangs above most metal works of this caliber. Sometimes this is very obvious, as in "Holy Blood, Holy War" or "Killzone", the latter of which sounds very similar to Kreator's "Enemy of God". The 'death metal' nods come only in a few of the guitar patterns found in songs "The Hand of Darkness", "War is In My Blood", etc, which seem to draw slightly from a Morbid Angel or Deicide influence, but this is primarily modern, thick thrash that alternates between a lot of palm mute chugging and big chords that occasionally foray into some slightly more technical material; the bridge of "The Hand of Darkness" has a riff similar to something Destruction would write, for example. Some of the better tracks here are "Lord of the Flies" and "Desolation Empire", both landing later in the track list with quality groove riffs and manic, Germanic force.

Very rarely does it erupt into anything incendiary, and that is one of the drawbacks to most Legion of the Damned recordings. It all sounds huge in tone (this was mixed at Abyss Studios in Sweden), but it's built of familiar feeling riffs to the extent that no manner of cruel bluster in the vocals and writing can really compensate. Think of a mix of modern Destruction albums and the German band Dew-Scented and you'll come up with a close approximation of what happens on this disc. That being said, Descent Into Chaos is at least, for the most part, fun. If you bang it out in your car speakers, it sounds enormous and effective, and the thick low end of the mix will get most peoples' blood pumping and fists punching the head rest behind you while you're trying to drive. It's hard to imagine a room full of mosh hardy highwaymen not going ape shit over these tunes in the live setting, but the songs are not incredibly potent beyond such an image, and despite the better planning here, greatness still seems to elude this band.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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