1990 was the year Swedish death metal really started breaking out, due to the explosion of Entombed's brilliant debut Left Hand Path, but there was still a carry-over from the thrash scene, and not all bands were to stalk the trail into a renaissance of Euro brutality. One exception was the short-lived entity Damnatory, who played a pretty unique brand of thrash metal laced in power/traditional heaviness that often skirts along the doomed terrace of their countrymen Candlemass. This is not through the vocals, which are more haughty and grunted here than a Messiah Marcolin, but in some of the thick, crushing rhythms. The majority of the material on The Madness Never Ends is not of a faster nature, but instead plods along at a mid pace with powerful thrash riffing.
Are the riffs any good? Well, not very often, but the album makes up this deficit with a bit of personality that simply stood distinct from its peers. "Nailed to the Cross" begins with the same 'hallelujah' intro found on Sabbat's "The Church Bizarre", then into some slower rhythms over which the vocals often soar like a monk staring in sadness at his savior on the rack. "War Without Sense" is a more pumping thrash number, and here the vocals are far cooler, with an angry pitch that sounds like some man with a pitchfork shouting down at you from his mountainside farm. Thus the slightly doom permutation that howls through the music. I rather enjoyed this track for several of its riffs, but it does feel a little forced in the transitions, and the bass is mighty loud. "Money" starts at a percussion-led trot, then cycling through some more throw, chuggy power/thrash rhythms with half-decent leads interspersed throughout. Seems a little messy, but again I kind of liked the vocals.
Highlights of the album are rather scarce, because there doesn't feel like a lot of deviation in the way the bands present their songs, but a few moments catch the ear, like the bludgeoning simplicity of the instrumental "Beyond and Back", the epic 8+ minute journey "Cemetary of Life" which is half decent, drawn out thrash, or the more direct force of "Scars Within the Psyche" and speed of "Into My World Beyond". "Infinity" is also worth hearing, I like the atmosphere and the slow, plodding certainty of the tried and tested riffing, plus the vocals which soar off like some cosmic doom monger.
The Madness Never Ends is a decent record to track down if you can tolerate its thick atmosphere and a production that might feel rather dated to some. The vocals have a lot of reverb, the guitars are thick and crunchy and the bass thick as the man sauce gathered at the monastery wall, with tinny little drums crashing along behind it all. It's probably a pretty good collector's item, but there's more than enough decent music to back it up. Try and imagine a mix of Sabbat (UK), Candlemass and Hallows Eve. Sounds pretty amazing? Well, for me that is what Damnatory had conjured here. Had they gone on to produce more, they might have made a worthy contender against bands like Memory's Garden, Tad Morose or Morgana LeFay.
Verdict: Win [7/10]