Damaj – Ashen Path
Scottish thrashers Damaj have been very quiet for some time and the reason is their debut album Ashen Path.
I have been a fan of this band since their EP “The Contract” arrived on my desk. From there I got to see them live pretty soon after and I cannot count how many times I have seen them live now and as well as a brilliant band I am now happy to call them friends with many drunken tales to tell.
With Ashen Path the difference from that very rough and ready EP is like night and day. Three years and many gigs have passed and every note played from then until now has bled its way through this album, every on stage cock up(yes, forgotten lyrics Daniel), every band rehearsal, changed band members and supporting some of the very best metal bands out there has been a part of what is now recorded for prosperity.
Add to that their last release in Wrath of the Tide and you can easily see a massive progression which hits you like a brick as “Traverse the Dark” starts. Haunting piano slowly leaves the speakers and slithers its way into your ears until the band go for your jugular and immediately the biggest thing to hit me about this album is the strength and venom in Daniels vocals. They are the strongest I have heard from this man and praise has to be laid on producer(and Jace Media’s very own) Simon Larkin. It looks like he pushed the vocalist hard on this and maybe a little hate came out.
The recording of this album was done in Sweden at Larkin CS recording studio. The boys travelled over from Greenock so had nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. They were obviously worked to the bone but the results are stunning. The opening track is just sublime. The dark mixed with the light, the anger and what turned me onto this band in the first place in their two incredible guitarists.
“Harsh Reality” is next and the anger is still there. This song would slap a smile on Mustaine’s face. The vocals are lower pitched and work well. They are layered and the main hook is almost mainstream for this band but with the thundering drums and bass building the platform for a breakdown of guitars that just blow you away and end on some wispy acoustic notes.
Next we get a reworking of last EP’s title track and one of my live favourites “Wrath of the Tide”. You can feel the waves crashing against the boats hull, the tornado whipped up by every instrument until the whole song creates a tsunami of noise and melody in equal parts. Once again the guitars weave a spell and create sheer metal magic. These boys can play like masters and with Duncan (I mean David) on bass weaving a beat so heavy and intricate you have a thrashers heaven.
“Home” is up next and another belting song. I love the way the band still do instrumental intros. The vocals tell the tale of suffering that is held within the lyrics. Even the chorus is as happy as a man standing on a gallow.
With “Dying Day” I was literally blow away. Thrash is not my go to genre, for me to really get into a thrash band they have to be special and to really hook me they need to have a slower song that I can get my teeth into and this song is the sign of this bands potential and class. I love 100 miles an hour but to slow something down and grab you emotionally gives you a different connection. Like Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters this song is seriously powerful.
It opens with an old battered acoustic which sounds beautiful. It opens this song perfectly and again the vocals are crisp and full of emotion. It also got me jumping for my iPod and right back to their first EP and the song “For the Wicked”. A song that was kind of out of place on that record but I fell in love with it. Unfortunately that song has been cast aside and it has been missing from their set list for many a year. Maybe when the band see how well received “Dying Day” is they will dust it off and get Simon to record it. It is far too good a song to let go.
I cannot tell you how good this song is for me. It is top drawer, in the 80s you would have been sick of seeing it on MTV. I played it to a friend without saying who it was and they were gobsmacked this was from a Scottish band that they had never heard of. They were impressed no end. For me this is the track of the album.
“Suffered to Much” comes at you with a Maiden staccato guitar sound, it wanders off to paint a metal parchment and the pain is back in the vocals. The band slip into NWOBHM territory. The brutal drums, the galloping beat and once again the guitars at break neck speed.
Buckle yourself in for “Testament of Judas”. Throttling guitars are trying to rip your head off. This almost 7 minute masterpiece is out for blood. Like a good book the plot twists and turns, the melodic journey left me out of breath and live this is outstanding.
Time for some religion in “Where is your God” and there is nothing heavenly about this track. From the depths of hell it came and it left with souls aplenty. The chorus is spat at you like a hate preacher outside his opposing religions church. There was something very Anthrax about this, it spits at you but you cannot help love it like a masochistic snake charmer waiting for a bite. I loved the spoken parts in this especially.
Another well oiled live song in “Well of Souls” is up next and on record it holds every part of that attention I have seen many punter pay it. Musically this is awesome. I am sure the boys sit down and write a song saying lets make this as difficult as possible. Heavy riffage kicks off “King”, well, that and some face shredding guitars. I will never forget the first time I saw these boys live. They were just a bunch of youngsters and I was expecting nothing but when I saw those two boys play guitar I was almost starstruck. I could not believe I was watching them in a tiny club. From there to now they have become as good as the first time I saw Downing/ Tipton or Murray/Stratton/Smith. James Haggart on lead guitar on stage is relaxed, composed and focused…all the while his fingers are casting a spell on you.
If you like your epic songs, your stories of majesty, your guitars fast, your drums faster I give you “Traverse the Light”. The boys wrap up this album in style. This is one the band are very proud of and I do not blame them. It is a thrashers valhalla, tick of the boxes as the song rolls along and I cracked a huge smile as I listened as that little gleam I saw from that first EP just burst forward and blinded me in pure metal brilliance.
Unfortunately you lot will need to wait till October for this release but I can assure you it is worth every second of the wait. This is head and shoulders the best this band have ever recorded or sounded. If this band got a support slot with Metallica tomorrow their future would be secure but as that is unlikely the hard graft will need to continue but sometime soon a big break is coming.
Review Ritchie Birnie
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