Dormanth – Complete Downfall Review

2020 has been a looooonnnng year and here I find myself, almost at the end of it. My List – following a not insignificant amount of agonizing – has been submitted, two TYMHMs have been written (two still to go, admittedly) and I am staring at my last full review of the year. So, what I need now from Dormanth is a real burst of the zingy, energetic melodeath the promo blurb promised, to carry me through these last couple of weeks. Can these Spaniards deliver the sort of lightning in a bottle that their countrymen Eternal Storm conjured last year or is this going to be more a case of the 2020 petering to a disappointing close?

Hailing from Bilbao, Spain, Dormanth have been around for a few years now, having dropped their debut, which bordered on proto black metal a la early Venom, all the way back in 1995. They then went on an almost immediate hiatus, only returning to release their sophomore album, Winter Comes, in 2016, followed two years later by IX SINS. Their return saw stylistic shift into melodic death metal territory, a transition which continues on their fourth outing, Complete Downfall. Indeed, their style continues to evolve, leaving behind much of the frenetic, if inconsistent, energy deployed on IX SINS in favor of a more measured shade of melodeath. Still, they waste little time out getting out the traps – bar an unnecessary, but thankfully brief, electronic sample – in dropping the first big riff. Set to thunderous drumming, with Oscar del Val’s guttural roars over the top, the sound on show is one of melodic, mournful loss, coupled with infrequent bursts of thrashy death metal.

This very much the pattern for Complete Downfall, as mid-paced, melodic riffs and somber leads are dished up by del Val and fellow guitarist Jokin Andrés, somewhat in the mold of last year’s Insomnium and even early In Flames. It’s not until “The Origin,” slightly past the album’s mid-way point, that Dormanth really change things up – or should I say down – at all, dropping the middle parts of that track to an almost doom tempo. The all-too-brief instrumental “-273° K”, which offers up a brooding dose of icy, dual-guitar atmospherics, hints at a slightly more varied side to Dormanth but it seems weirdly out of place on the record, as does the Slaughter o f the Soul-esque section of “Crystal Bone”, and normal service is swiftly resumed.

For the most part, the vaguely Scandinavian-tinged melodic death metal formula holds, with Dormanth cranking out solid, but largely unremarkable, riffs pretty consistently. Across Complete Downfall’s run, there is little to complain about: the riffs are decent, if a little unremarkable; the performances solid, with some nice leads on the guitars and del Val roars his heart out. The production is broadly fine too, with the guitars finding a nice tone and a deep, full sound on the bass. The vocals are arguably a bit loud but that’s nit-picking. The issue really lies in the songwriting, which, while not bad, simply fails to deliver anything that memorable. Complete Downfall has the feel of a band playing it slightly safe and by the numbers, and feels significantly longer than its 42 minutes.

While Dormanth’s 2018 outing, IX SINS, had a rough, almost blackened death edge to tracks like “Promised Land” (as well as some fairly ill-judged moments, admittedly, like the clean vocals early in “Soul Shall Die”), Complete Downfall is an altogether more somber and consistent affair but there are few standout moments and it lacks bite. The first half of “Crystal Bone” shows Dormanth cut loose a bit, unleashing some lightning riffs and really upping the tempo, displaying what this record could have been with a little more variation and if a few more risks had been run. Overall though, it is a missed opportunity.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Xtreem Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: December 15th, 2020

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