I’ve been closely following the work of Texas-based Wings of Dahak since coming across the tracks released in advance of their 2017 debut album, Unholy Wings. Initially drawn to the music by the pedigrees of the band’s three members — guitarist/vocalist/bassist Dave Tillery (Embalmed, ex-Gruesome Fate), lead guitarist Cody Daniels (Giant of the Mountain, Dour), and drummer Matt Thompson (King Diamond, and more) — I quickly became sold on the ravaging ferocity and immense evocative power of their particular amalgam of death and black metal (to mention only two ingredients).
Named for a legendary three-headed dragon (Azhi Dahaka) created by the spirit of destruction, whose reign brought to the earth “misery, hunger, thirst, old age and death, mourning and lamentation, excessive heat and cold, and intermingling of demons and men,” and creating music “with this spirit in heart and mind”, the band have succeeded in summoning those terrible visions through sound.
Wings of Dahak followed that debut album with a new single last fall — “The Day They Burned” — which we reviewed soon after discovering it. Now, the band are about to release a new EP named Death At Your Side, which includes both that single and two new tracks. Today, on the eve of that release, we’re premiering both the EP as a whole and a video for its title track. Let’s take the songs one at a time, beginning with the one we’re presenting through a frightening video…
The new song “Death At Your Side” is a dynamic affair that begins with thunderous, head-pounding rhythms and a hell of a guitar solo that goes off like fireworks and still grows increasingly fire-bright and electrifying. It will be surprising if that magnetic opening doesn’t root you in place for what comes next, and what comes next is a ravaging gauntlet of sound, a mix of cruel, feverish riffing, enraged throaty growls, and neck-snapping drumwork. When the juggernaut pace relents and huge chords begin to drag and groan, it’s a prelude for another eye-popping solo, which this time enhances the music’s sudden air of bleakness and misery. As the intensity swells again, it’s a jolting and jackhammering experience, accented by a darting and discordant guitar lead that’s both sinister and demented.
The fury in Dave Tillery‘s vocals is unmistakable, and here we’ll share his insights about what inspired this track:
“In case you haven’t noticed one recurring theme in my lyrics, I carry particular disdain for power structures, human desire for power, and the inevitable corruption and evil that harms more than not on the journey for and retention of power. This song is about those people, with a special few directly in mind during writing. Policy makers and business executives draw the tip of my ire, and when the two are combined it is a particularly deadly concoction. In the end, I have to believe that karma wins out.
“The idea is that ‘Death’ runs along side these people throughout their sheltered and protected life, teaching them the ways of destruction through the art of policy. They carry a disdain for all other life and only care about themselves and the need for more power and more wealth, as they have been taught. But of course, you can’t trick or bypass ‘Death’ and judgment in the end, and these people are destined for a long eternity of tenfold payback at the very hands of the entities that taught them. Surprise, surprise.”
The other new song on the EP, “Earth-Fire and Inundation“, includes a narrated intro as the music begins taken from “Theory of the Earth” by Georges Cuvier (1827), and a narrated outro taken from “The Lost Americans” by Frank C. Hibben (1946). In between, Wings of Dahak fly on great dragon wings. With an earthquaking bass-and-drum attack, and vocals at least as ferocious as on the previous song, the fleet-fingered riffing channels chaos while the leads burn like fire, and flicker and swirl in equally flame-like fashion. There’s a terrific solo in this song as well — a dual-guitar harmony that mounts in intensity as it unfurls, soaring and flashing in displays of sheer instrumental ecstasy, yet also bringing in feelings of moodiness and sorrow that blend into the crushing hopelessness which radiates from the music at the close of the song.
And again, we’ll share Dave Tillery‘s explanation for what this song is about:
“Another recurring theme is the cyclical process of cleansing and rebirth of our planet. A lot of what I write shows man as the primary culprit for bringing about this destruction through hatred and greed, as in the story of Azhi-Dahak in particular. But I also realize that man has no control of the immense power of the universe and the cycles that have been and will be again.
“This song is based on the writings of Georges Cuvier and Frank C. Hibben about the great upheaval of the land and seas and the spewing of the hottest fire known, straight from the core of the earth, annihilating species and erasing civilizations.. I believe these cataclysmic events have happened before and will occur again. The narration at the beginning and end of these song were taken directly from writings of other authors and based on their research.”
And finally, the EP includes “The Day They Burned“, the song first released last fall. It’s strikingly ominous and shrouded in gloom at first, and becomes increasingly savage and scintillating. The vocals are remarkably bestial and vicious; the drumwork is both punishing and magisterial; the bass performance is vibrant and brutalizing; and while the hammering and braying riffs create an atmosphere of looming evil and frightening destructive power, the soloing leaps from that combination of imperious, menacing sounds with striking clarity and eye-popping nimbleness. The song mounts to a crescendo of such shattering, explosive power that it left me near-breathless when I first heard it — and still does.
Death At Your Side was recorded by the band (with vocals recorded by Jerry Martilik at Abattior Studios), and it was mixed and mastered by Irving Lopez at Room 65 Recordings. It will be released tomorrow — September 12th — and will be available for purchase via Bandcamp. Enjoy the full stream of the full EP after the links.