Damaj – ‘The Wrath of the Tide’ EP
Damaj – ‘The Wrath of the Tide’ EP
Welcome to Damaj, who are a four-piece from Greenock in Scotland. ‘The Wrath of the Tide’ EP is their first release and it is four tracks of quality from a band that have honed their trade since 2013. The EP was mixed by none other than Simon Larkin, bass player from hair rock legends and Kerrang favourites, Monterrey. The mix is totally raw and has a rehearsal room feel to it which makes it fresh and ‘almost live’. But before we get into the songs and production let’s talk about the EP cover.
It’s a corker, that’s about all you need to know. All metal needs a stonking cover and this is no exception. It’s a cross between the colossus and the cthulhu and its reaching out of the icy depths to snatch a sloop that’s strayed its way. The chimera has its hands in the ‘got you’ style before dragging it down to meet Davy Jones. Like all good metal covers the artwork is part of the story and takes you back to a day when the purchase included poring over the artwork and liner notes, learning as much as you could about the band in non-digital days. So, artwork, big tick.
The EP has four guitar led tracks and they are all varying riffs with more timing changes than a cheap airline. The mix lets the guitars come to the fore and the playing is excellent. You can hear a band that have put in a lot of time and effort on the stage before they got to the studio.
First track on this unrelenting EP is, The King. First thing that comes into my mind is Testament, and you know what, that’s not bad thing. The drumming is simple, the vocal is sparse without being detracting but the guitar is insane. It has the Striker mentality of stopping a riff, to change riff unless you are soloing, then only stop soloing to riff or change solo. But unlike the melody of Striker this is a reminder of that brief time when NWOBHM went hard just before thrash. Killer solo in the middle and it’s a great start to the EP. The Wrath of the Tide is next up and it has a far more melodic, twined guitar start with the drum beefed up. It’s a slow burner, its malevolent, and you get the feeling that this is setup for a solo fest…and there it is for about half the song. The playing is insane and clearly someone is an early Megadeth \ Anthrax fan as there are touches throughout this song.
Track three is, Testament of Judas, which at seven minutes is the longest track on the EP. The drum is different again and I can hear that ‘Lar’s click’ from the kick which I’m still getting treatment for. That aside, this song shows that the band has ambition beyond that of the four-minute, straight up rock track. This is an epic, meandering riff fest and it tells you that Damaj have bigger plans in store for the future. It’s rocky-jazzy-swingy-thrashy all in one that will probably take on a life of its own live.
The final track on this EP is, The Well of Souls’ which starts with a bare bone growling riff and dives into to the anguished vocals. This is a strange one as its harmonised guitars but at times the snare is playing, or seems to be playing, against the flow. Again, its ambitious and the guitar will strip paint off the walls as it is intense.
Damaj have got an agenda that’s obviously bigger than this EP but this is an unrelenting and well thought out entry. The artwork is blindingly good, the songs are fresh, the playing is excellent and the solos will immediately introduce you to a new set of neighbours when played loud. The songs are reminiscent of that mid to late 1980s period when rock \ metal pushed a little harder before thrash and so I can hear Testament and Grim Reaper. I can also hear the early days of thrash before it all went grind and melody left the building. The only issue is the vocal is a bit exposed and probably would benefit being pushed back in the mix or being beefed up. But that’s a minor thing because this is an immense debut and well worth you investment. Five quid people, get amongst it and buy your copy here.
Review – Craig Grant