REVIEW: LEGION OF THE DAMNED – “Slaves Of The Shadow Realm”
Death and thrash metal go together like peanut butter and jelly. Few bands capture the essence of a riff-driven thrash sound with sheer death-like anger so well like Dutch masters Legion of the Damned, who managed to successfully make a name for themselves since they were playing beautiful black/thrash as Occult. Always unleashing killer music, the group led by Erik Fleuren (drums) and Maurice “Sephiroth” Swinkels (vocals) pave their way to victory once again with 2019’s ‘Slaves of the Shadow Realm’.
Blood, sweat and steel mark the effort as Swinkels’ snarling screams and Twan van Geel’s amazing guitar-work serve as the main weapons here, all while maintaining the band’s Slayer-esque atmosphere allied with the aggressiveness and bombastic elements that acts like The Crown and Skeletonwitch are also known for.
The album lives and breathes evil aura and macabre moments, from the awesome cover art by Hungarian mastermind Gyula Havancsák (Destruction, Grave Digger and others) to the haunting song titles and lyrics. Tracks like “Nocturnal Commando” and “Charnel Confession” provide a sense of pure hatred and calamity, especially when Fleuren is at his peak blasting through the drums like a war chanter.
Legion of the Damned have always exceled at mixing prolific instrumental with sheer savagery, which is often seen here as well. “The Widows Breed” and “Slaves of the Southern Cross”, for instance, are entirely different between themselves exactly because of this instrumental prowess. While the former focuses on speed and virtuosity, the latter slows things down and provides us with some toned-down, heavy/thrash guitar lines and a less bombastic, rawer experience.
A raw, organic experience, for that matter, is yet another one of LOTD’s best weapons. The middle part of the record, with “Warhounds of Hades”, “Black Banners In Flames” and “Shadow Realm of the Demonic Mind” evokes the inner Sodom in these crazy motherfuckers and even reminisces their golden days of Occult with harsh sounds and old-school riffs. “Warhounds of Hades”, in fact, is one of the best tracks in the album and practically a monument to their history.
“Palace of Sin” continues the onslaught with hard-hitting riffs and yet another visceral and organic display by Swinkels. “Priest Hunt” is the most epic bit here, with slight changes of pace and more melodic (well, as melodic as LOTD can be) leads and verses. “Azazel’s Crown” speeds up things again, but I find it not to be on par with the band’s best moments. It’s a non-stop battering ram, but overly simplistic when compared to the better tracks, but curiously enough also where Harold Gielen’s bass lines are more prominent.
Closer “Dark Coronation / Outro” couldn’t be a better ending to a brutal effort. Thunderous and vicious, the song features the best riffs and solo by these dudes in a long time, and the sense of the supernatural and the morbid make everything here better; a near-perfect song in terms of guitar lines and songwriting.
Production-wise, the album continues with the great quality of other LOTD releases, courtesy of the legendary Andy Classen (ex-Holy Moses, producer of bands such as Belphegor, Graveworm, Krisiun and many others), who once again delivers crunchy, crystalline sound to the instruments as well as a prominent place for Swinkels’ voice.
Legion of the Damned is fierce as hell. Following the same vein as classics like ‘Malevolent Rapture’ (2006) and ‘Sons of the Jackal’ (2007), the Dutch quartet delivers in ‘Slaves of the Shadow Realm’ yet another brutal attack of crushing death/thrash with a flavor of their own. Fast, heavy, powerful and true, the band reached long ago an organic form in terms of execution and musicianship that is enviable, which is easily seen in the album. If this is any indication of what 2019 will be for death, thrash and metal in general, rest assured that the future will be brilliant. Highly recommended.