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Allegaeon Damnum


Album Review: ALLEGAEON Damnum

8.5 Reviewer

Allegaeon have pushed their way to the top of the technical death metal scene the old-fashioned way, through relentless touring and dedication to improving their craft. Apoptosis soared to number 15 on the US Rock charts, confirming once again that Allegaeon are steadily getting better. Each album from the Colorado crew improved upon the last one, finally culminating in their sixth effort Damnum. Fans who have stuck around since 2010 will not be disappointed. That’s because Damnum might be Allegaeon's best record to date.

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Let’s start with what’s different this time around. Allegaeon have never had the best luck with drummers, going through three since 2010. Newcomer Jeff Saltzman fits right in alongside the other band members, taking a less active role than his predecessors, which allows the guitars to show off their virtuoso talents. There’s a tendency in tech-death to default back to the blastbeat as the standard time-keeper, which can turn otherwise great songs into a monotone assembly line. Saltzman never falls into this trap. Instead, he uses his full kit to provide a rich backdrop for the rest of the band members.

Part of this new approach comes from the album's production, courtesy of Dave Otero from Flatline Audio Studio. There's a hint of classic heavy metal in the soaring guitar solos and occasional clean vocals. Fans of Archspire and Between The Buried And Me will be in heaven. Allegaeon are never quite as angular as those other bands, but it works to their advantage. Damnum's greatest strength comes from how the instruments mesh together, not any one player's performance. They also wisely avoid any direct symphonic influence, which keeps them from getting lumped in with Lorna Shore or Shadow Of Intent.

Being a progressive death metal album, there has to be a centerpiece. "Called Home" is Damnum's longest track at seven-and-three-quarter minutes. It's also one of the album's best songs, combining Allegaeon's old brutality with Scandinavian vibes reminiscent of Opeth and Katatonia. Another reference point could be the last two Rivers Of Nihil records. It's a bold move on an already bold album, but Allegaeon manage to pull it off.

Change is almost always a good thing. Allegaeon's metamorphosis from mechanical tech-deathheads to progressive wayfarers has been as smooth as it was unpredictable. They've avoided the period of stagnation that brings down so many great tech bands. We should have all guessed from those Rush and Yes covers which way the wind was blowing, but few would have predicted just how impressive Damnum would be. Hopefully, this will be enough to push the band further than they have ever gone before.

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