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Damnation AD | In This Life or the Next | review | metal | Lollipop
In This Life or the Next (Victory)
by Tim Den
I ain't gonna lie: Even though I'm usually skeptical of reunions, DC metalcore cult favorites Damnation A.D. getting back together had me as giddy as a school girl. Why? Because the band's last two releases, '96's Misericordia and '98's Kingdom of Lost Souls, were not only powerful demonstrations of sublime melody thrust forward with brute force, but two metalcore records which have aged gracefully. Led by guitarist/producer/engineer/songwriter Ken Olden's knack for combining hardcore energy, Black Sabbath progressions, and catchy yet off-kilter time signatures, Damnation A.D. in their heyday conjured up the gloom of Birmingham as well as the ghettos of our nation's capitol. In a nutshell, they made intense music.
With such a track record, not to mention the fact that none of the members went on to embarrass themselves in sub par bands after Damnation A.D.'s break up, I was ready to celebrate a comeback album that would live up to the legacy. And after the first three songs, it seemed as if I was getting just that. "Knot," "Don't Feel a Thing," and "Let Me In" all exhibit the kind of magical despair that the band were known to embody, even if the Pro Tools recording quality (though championed by Olden himself as "much easier than analog") leaves much to be desired. So what if the guitars sound a bit synthetic and upfront, while the drums are too mid range-y and buried? The songwriting's still there, right? Right! But then the rest of the record made it VERY hard for me to remain enthused. The riffs became much more interchangeable, the cut-and-paste feel of the vocal performance (also sounding a bit synthetic) was clumsy, and the abundance of cred-clamoring "guest appearances" by "hardcore superstars" came off as forced, unnecessary, and annoying. What's more, whatever excitement I had left for In This Life or the Next was thoroughly destroyed by "If You Could Remember," featuring - I shit you not - Fall Out Boy. FALL OUT BOY. Okay, I'm not elitist enough to dismiss an entire album just cuz one of its songs is stained by one of the biggest septic tanks of a band today, but just listen to the thing. Go ahead, I dare ya. If you don't hear the desperation in its eagerness to be "catchy," the laughably off-key singing that even Auto Tune's straitjacketing couldn't fix, or the "so bad maybe Fall Out Boy wrote 'em" lyrics, then you obviously weren't a fan of Damnation A.D.'s older, classic material. "If You Could Remember" is a complete train wreck. It has damaged my view of the band so much, that I'm afraid I might never be able to listen to their old stuff again. And that both pisses me off and makes me extremely sad, cuz them two records mean a ton to me.
But I won't give up on these guys so easily. This is their first record together in nearly 10 years, after all. Maybe they'll get it right next time? Better recording, no guest vocals, no re-recordings of old songs (you get three of 'em here), and maybe a few more original members (especially guitarist Hillel Holloway, whose absence from this reunion almost renders it obsolete). As it stands, In This Life or the Next's three good tunes are absolutely no match for the rest of the album's tragedies. Until the band redeem themselves, consider my heart broken.