Damnation’s Hammer – Into the Silent Nebula Review

A dead Borg cube drifts aimlessly across the vast cosmic ocean. Multitudes of drones are left deactivated, decrepit, unclaimed by the hive mind. Left to the stagnant eternity of existence in a spacial sea that so cruelly denies corpses the dignified grace of gradual decay, this abandoned cube and its deceased inhabitants still strike fear in those who stumble upon it. It is a place of terror, of conquering, of relentless and heartless assimilation. Danger lies wherever Borg activity, past or present, resides, but there’s a strange sadness in the sight of a dead cube such as this. The knowledge that those stolen lives are near instantly discarded by the very machinations who once coveted them delivers a fatal blow to the soul. It is those devastating blows which U.K. death doom groove metal band Damnation’s Hammer aim to deliver on third LP Into the Silent Nebula.

Plot twist! Into the Silent Nebula has nothing to do with the Borg, or Star Trek in general (sorry, Cherd). However, it is quintessentially Damnation’s Hammer. Hard to categorize, the UK troupe’s unique concoction of Temple of Void/Bolt Thrower death metal, Triptykon doom, and Clutch-y hard rock groove presents an inimitable character that no other band on Earth boasts. It is this unique flavor that earned predecessor Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres a high rating from yours truly. Thankfully, not much has changed save for the addition of a few desert-dwelling notes pulled from the Messa playbook (“The Silent Nebula”). At its core, Into the Silent Nebula is a clinic in hard-hitting, tectonic riff-craft, while the surrounding songwriting swagger goads big burly leather-bound biker boys to buy another round for the bar. Damnation’s Hammer take advantage of their knack for writing dreary doom marches as the record transitions to a darker second act, with their trademarked whiskey-soaked bark motivating the record all the way through to a lonely conclusion.

That conclusion wraps up ten minutes earlier than Unseen Planets’, marking just one of the ways Damnation’s Hammer tightened things up here. Highlights like “Sutter Cane,” “Do Not Disturb the Watchmaker,” the title track, and “The Call of the Void” destroy everything in their path and waste no time gettin’ to it. Chunky, rollicking hooks, screaming leads and crushing riffs incur a barrage of blunt force trauma directly onto the tender meat between my two ears, leaving lasting marks in the aftermath. Steady in pace but improbably heavy and impossibly momentous, groovy tunes like “Outpost 31” and “The Moon and the Waters of Death” drive the record inexorably forward with equal momentum, despite the former’s penchant for deathly wiolence contrasting with the latter’s bluesy dirge. It’s that consistent vitality and power that makes resisting Damnation’s Hammer futile. Furthermore, even though Unseen Planets didn’t particularly want for an editor, the forty-two minute Into the Silent Nebula cuts a lean and mean figure, making this record insanely easy to revisit.

Simple, effective songwriting wins the day more often than not for Damnation’s Hammer, but there are some new concerns when it comes to advancement in execution. For many bands, sticking to what they do best is never the wrong move, but Damnation’s Hammer made the mistake of teasing something more—that aforementioned Messa-like desert atmosphere—without following through. Instrumental “The Silent Nebula” uses its place at dead center of the record to hint at something fresh and spicy that, sadly, never developed, leaving me feeling somewhat underwhelmed by the otherwise solid content on the back end (save for the useless second interlude “The Hex IV”). As a final nitpick, the use of samples and movie quotes scattered occasionally throughout takes away from moments that probably would’ve been more impactful without them (“Outpost 31”). Those inclusions, unfortunately, feel especially flimsy when compared to the band’s strong, original lyrical content.

Despite my criticisms, Into the Silent Nebula is an incredibly easy record to spin, and even easier to enjoy. There’s an unmitigated flood of killer riffs, groovy rhythms, and excellent pacing to behold. Were it not for a few odd lyrical and sampling choices and the promise of something greater that never came, I would happily rate it more highly. That being said, if you like riffs and hella groove, Damnation’s Hammer got the goods.

Rating: Good.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: damnationshammer.co.uk | damnationshammer.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: September 15th, 2023

« »