Founded in 2013 and based in Greenock, Scotland, Damaj are a four-piece heavy metal outfit the like of which you’d be forgiven for thinking had vanished from the earth. Built around a shared passion for heavy metal, Damaj are the sort of band that, in the past, would have been quite happy mailing out tapes to their fan base one by one and it is that sense of commitment, passion and determination that comes across most powerfully on this four-track EP. Left admirably raw, the EP is a throwback to the time when bands proudly boasted “no synthesizers” on their album sleeves and studiously avoided polishing the life out of their music with an ever-increasing bank of computer-based tools. As such, this debut EP is a refreshingly crushing blast of traditional metal that comes roaring out of Scotland like an Atlantic hurricane.
A breathless record with little in the way of respite, the EP kicks off with the aptly titled ‘the King’, a regal blast of thrash-infused traditional metal which fuses blistering riffs and melodic vocals that bring to mind Judas Priest at their heaviest (think ‘Judas is Rising’). Daniel Stewart delivers the vocals with precision, bringing to mind Paul Di Anno’s potent delivery, and James Haggart clearly has a blast, digging at his fret-board with a white hot fury that will have you playing air guitar in no time. The star of the show, however, may well be Scott Macleod whose inventive and punishing percussive assault gives the track that bruising edge that is essential in any great heavy metal track. Seguing directly into ‘The Wrath of the tide’, the band doesn’t pause for breath as they tear into a grueling riff that is a head banger’s wet dream. This is epic stuff with a suitably live-in-the-studio feel that brings the band right in to the heart of your living room. The EP’s undisputed highlight, however, is the grandiose ‘The Testament of Judas’ – the sort of bloody epic that Metallica delighted in circa ‘Kill ‘em all’, and with its devastating opening riff, jazzy progressions (keeping bassist David Douglas busy) and heroic lyrics, there’s no doubting that ‘The testament of Judas’ is the work of a passionate and ambitious band indeed. The EP concludes with ‘the well of souls’, a dark, gruelling finale with a mixture of harmonised and suitably face-melting solos that brings the EP to a deeply satisfying conclusion.
‘The wrath of the tide’ is a fantastic debut from a promising band. It isn’t perfect – the production, whilst admirably raw, occasionally leaves Daniel’s vocals too openly exposed in the mix where a more nuanced approach would help – but this is a minor gripe. Two things, however, stand out. Firstly the songs themselves are of an exceptional quality. Varied and yet with a traditional thrust that will have metal fans beside themselves, the four songs represented here showcase a band awash with ideas. Secondly, the quality of the musicianship is second to none and it is clear that the band worked hard to develop both their sound and proficiency. With glorious cover art courtesy of the distressingly talented Andy Pilkington (VeryMetalArt) and four strong songs, ‘The wrath of the tide’ is the perfect introduction to a band from whom I expect to hear much more. 8
Find out more about Damaj via their Facebook page here.