Angel of Damnation – Heathen Witchcraft
Reviewed: November, 2018
Released: 2018, Shadow Kingdom Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
When so much of today’s doom metal is low tuned drone and fixated on the unfortunate realities of today’s world and/or the substances that can be ingested to escape them, an album like HEATHEN WITCHCRAFT is refreshing. The sophomore full length from Germany’s Angel of Damnation is a throwback to the sword and sorcery mysticism of early Candlemass and the concise riffage of mid-80’s Pentagram, all of which is wrapped in a velvet cloak of classic metal stylings. And while the album isn’t necessarily a total home run, there’s still something here for the doom traditionalist to enjoy.
On the upside, each of the 6 new tunes are deployed confidently and straightforward. Save for the occasional pipe organ, there’s little in the way of pomp or flash, just clean, crunchy mid-tempo doom riffs, wailing vocals, and lots and lots of reverb. Vocalist Doomcult Messiah (also of Sacred Steel fame) has a charismatic quality to his delivery, sounding something like a hybrid between Scott Reagers and Johan Längquist, sprinkled with some pre-addiction Bobby Liebling warble for good measure. Occasionally on gems like the closing “Lord of the Seven Churches”, the band ramps up the tempo with some nods to early Priest, but for the most part you’ve got a pretty matter-of-fact record that sounds like something you’d stumble upon in the metal section of your import record store 20 years ago. Not a bad thing at all.
On the downside, the 6 tracks don’t offer a ton of variety between them. Save for a handful of pockets across the album, there’s not much to be found in the way of guitar solos – which is kind of a hallmark for this style of doom. And where those pockets do manifest themselves, you’re quick to understand why. Guitarist Avenger is adept enough at holding down the rhythm, but his lead work makes Dave Chandler sound like Steve Vai. There are only so many ways you can crank out a mid-tempo doom riff without any harmonies or melodic balance before things sound a bit stale. The little bit of digging I did into the band’s history tells me that Angel of Damnation is Avenger’s side hustle, while his main gigs span a variety of blackened thrash metal bands. I guess good on him for diversifying?
Taken for what it is, I still enjoyed my time with HEATHEN WITCHCRAFT. I wasn’t familiar with Angel of Damnation before this point; if anything, the new album has encouraged me to dig into their previous body of work as well as the copious other projects available on Avenger’s Bandcamp page. Horns up and bang your heads, there are worse ways you could spend an hour.