As much as I’d anticipated finally getting my ears on this album, I can’t lie and say that I’m not a little bit disappointed. Down Among the Dead Men’s self-titled debut delivers on exactly what it promises to be, a “Death Metal meets Discharge” crossover of sorts – so on that level you can consider it a rousing success. But yet I feel like there’s a casket load of missed opportunity here.
Exhibit A – Down Among the Dead Men features journeyman guitarist Rogga Johannson of Bone Gnawer, Ribspreader, The Grotesquery and a gazillion other outfits. Rogga’s got chops and enough riffs to fill a library.
Exhibit B – Down Among the Dead Men features ex-Benediction vocalist Dave Ingram, the one and only voice behind classics like THE GRAND LEVELLER and THE DREAMS YOU DREAD. The dude’s got one of the best death growls in the business; guttural as the pits of hell, but discernable enough that you can understand the wrath of his lyrics.
The musical union of Johannson and Ingram should’ve been the aural equivalent of 1987 Tawny Kitaen grinding on the hood of a European luxury car. But what we get on DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN is a drilled down, 3 chord crust punk blitz wrapped in the trappings of good ol’ traditional death metal. There’s a rush of adrenaline with the opening “Draconian Rage”; it’s fast, pissed off, heavy as f@#k, and Ingram’s bark sounds better ever. “The Doomsday Manuscript” and “Leeches Gorge” follow in much the same fashion, ripping by in 2-minute bursts of aggression. By the time you get to “The Epoch”, the juices are still flowing, but are followed by a sense of “didn’t I just hear this track?” And that’s the rub. Johannson sticks to the same handful of riffs across the album, alternating them here and there, but across the album’s 13 tracks it ends up sounding awfully repetitious. With the compact run times of each of the tunes and the rapid fire delivery that they’re executed with, it mushes the whole thing together even more so.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still good times to be had with DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN. Like I said, the first three tracks are a solid rush, and packaged with more robust tunes like “Adolescence of Time”, “Venus Mantrap”, and “The Stones Lament”, you’ve still got a respectable release in your hands. DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN is a good album that has great moments, just not enough of them. It’s anybody’s guess whether or not this union is a one shot deal or a long term relationship, but I do hope that there’s more for Down Among the Dead Men to say.
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