Recommended for fans of: Witchery, Goatwhore, The Crown
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… and again… and again… choosing the right, or wrong, genre tag(s) can make or break a review.
After all, we Metal folk can be a touchy, tribalist bunch at times, prone to writing off artists if/when they start to drift into sounds/styles we don’t approve of, and frequently guilty of pre-judging a band simply because they’re associated with the “wrong” kind of genre(s).
The thing about Virginia’s The Day of the Beast, however, is that no matter what you call them – deathly Black Thrash, thrashy Blackened Death, blackened Death Thrash – it’s difficult, borderline impossible, not to love them… they’re simply so ridiculously fun.
Don’t take that to mean “frivolous” though, as TDotB are no joke, as each of their four albums (the most recent of which was released just a few weeks ago) goes well out of their way to prove by way of a veritable orgy of ravaging riffs, galloping grooves, and vicious, venom-spitting vocals.
THE DAY OF THE BEAST – 2008
While it’s definitely the most overly thrashy of the band’s releases, their self-titled debut still gives you an instant impression of what sort of thing to expect from The Day of the Beast, namely a full-on, full-throttle, heavy Metal heart-attack that drinks deeply (and unashamedly) from numerous different influences drawn from across the metallic spectrum.
It all kicks off with the buzzing riffs and biting snarls of “Pangaea Rising”, whose primal, almost primitive, mode of attack should immediately cue you in that TDotB are an “all-thrills, no-frills” kind of band, before kicking things up another gear immediately with the even more furious and frantic strains of “Predator’s Path” (which, to my ears, has more than a hint of early The Crown to it).
Sure, the production might be a little thin at times (especially when compared with the bigger, more bombastic sound they’d achieve on subsequent albums) but the band’s drive and dedication still shines through, especially on the catchy-as-hell, Kreator-esque “Beyond Choronzon” and the choppy, twin-axe anthem of “Harvest of the Heretics”.
One thing you’ll probably notice (I did, anyway) is that the album actually gets heavier, and darker (and, I’d argue, more Death Metal influenced) as it goes along, with both the pounding “He Who Shuns The Light” and chug-happy hooks “The Crawling Chaos” building on those early comparisons to The Crown while also adding a hefty dose of Vader-esque intensity to their thickly-corded tremolo lines and stomping, staccato rhythms.
And while both “Awakening the Morningstar” and “De Vermis Mysteriis” once again shows off the band’s knack for crafting a catchy chorus without lessening their intensity – if anything, the back-half of “Awakening…” is one of the album’s heaviest moments, and finds them gravitating even further towards Black/Death territory – I’d argue that it’s closer “Upon the Throne” which really shows how intense the band can be when they set their minds to it (even if the extended ambient outro is a little unnecessary).
RELENTLESS DEMONIC INTRUSION – 2012
With their second album it’s clear that the group wanted to go in a slightly darker direction, as immediately evinced by the opening title-track, which carries over many of the most devilishly infectious Teutonic Thrash touches of their debut (including some pitch-perfect gang-shouts) but also adds an extra deathly dose of menace and muscle (especially near the end).
It’s during “Unknown Kadath”, however, where things really start to take shape, as the song’s reckless, relentless, and more aggressive approach hearkens closer to the Goatwhore end of the spectrum (the fact that the vocals get even nastier, and the drums even blastier, definitely doesn’t hurt either), after which “The Cult of the Bloody Tongue” doubles down on this “Death/Thrash tinged with Black Metal” approach to great (and gruesome) effect.
The snarly, slightly-blackened Slayer sensibilities of “Son of Draconis” gives off some major Witchery vibes (hell, now that I think about it even the album cover reminds me of the Swede’s Witchburner EP), after which “The Paralyzed Hand” shifts things into slightly punkier – albeit still Metal-as-fuck – territory for a few minutes, before the grim-faced grooves and lashings of evil melody which make up “Static Cesspool” drag the record, and the listener, back into darker waters.
A plethora of thrashy riffs, rolling kicks, ramshackle blastbeats and spiteful, spitfire vocals elevate “As Steel Sharpens Steel” to be one of the album’s best tracks, with both the music (especially the climactic shift towards trem-heavy Blackened Thrash) and the lyrics (which repeatedly reference many of the band’s classic influences/inspirations – sample line: “Venom! Our grand dominion will thrive we are motherfucking Lucifer’s choir!”) further cementing those early Goatwhore comparisons even more.
The album then concludes with two more of its best tracks, with the ripping Swe-Death meets galloping Black-Thrash Witchery-worship of the title-track eventually giving way to the raw energy and raging riffmongery of “Torch This Place”, whose combination of frenetic thrashery, shameless old-school Death Metal worship, and squalling, ear-scraping solos (plus one very well placed evil laugh) ends the album on a major high note that’s sure to leave you hungry for more.
THE ULTIMATE CREMATION PYRE – 2017
If the album art didn’t clue you in, then “The Diabolic Separation of Hope” should swiftly let you know that the band’s third album is an even darker, heavier, and much more serious affair than its predecessors (though that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot of nasty fun to be had).
The meatier guitar tone, beefier drum sound, and increasingly venomous vocals continue to highlight the ways in which the band are building on the legacy of acts like Vader, Witchery, and The Crown, and while The Day of the Beast aren’t quite at that level just yet, they’re definitely on their way, as both the opener and the subsequent title track showcase a band that seem to have found another gear, and a new level of intensity.
That’s no slight on the previous two albums by any means, it’s just that, in hindsight, those records were clearly made by a band more than happy to just follow in the footsteps of their more prestigious predecessors… whereas this version of TDotB – a little bit older, not necessarily wiser, but definitely a hell of a lot meaner – are clearly no longer satisfied playing it quite so safe.
For example, as much as one could say that “Black Earth Coffins” sounds a bit (or a lot) like Carcass mainman Jeff Walker fronting a more Black Metal tinged version of Vader, you could also say that this particular combination sounds, possibly for the very first time, like the true version of The Day of the Beast, and the red-lined, riff-happy rampage of “Azhidaka” which follows (including a pleasantly bleak and moody acoustic intro) only reaffirms this sense that the band have finally found their sound.
This is then hammered home by “Crowned In Maggots”, one of the shortest, and most savage, songs the band have ever done, after which the fast-paced, blast-laced assault of “The Destroying Eye” keeps the aggression and adrenaline levels from dropping as the album then transitions into the the ridiculously catchy riffage and writhing tremolo runs of “Phantasmal Crossroads”, which once again strikes that sweet spot between The Crown and Witchery.
Closing with the pissed-off, take-no-prisoners pairing of “Bastards of the Beast” (whose blistering Black/Thrash blend channels the best of Goatwhore so well that I almost expect Ben Falgoust himself to make an appearance) and the magnificently-titled, fret-melting strains of “Cyclopian City of Dark, Dripping Stone”, there’s absolutely no denying that The Ultimate Creation Pyre is where TDotB truly came into their own.
INDISPUTABLY CARNIVOROUS – 2021
If their previous record was where The Day of the Beast truly “found themselves”, then album #4 is indisputably the album which shows you what this “new” version of the band is really capable of.
Of course, using the word “new” might be a bit misleading – after all, this is still fundamentally the same band who made Relentless Demonic Intrusion, even if the line-up has changed slightly, and their core sound still remains a hefty Black/Death/Thrash hybrid in the vein of Witchery, The Crown, Vader, etc – but there’s definitely a newfound energy and aggression, plus an increased focus on even tighter, punchier, songwriting.
Once opener “Corruptor/Infestor” kicks in, for example, you’ll immediately notice how much more taut and sharp the guitar work is (we’re talking almost Hetfieldian levels of devastating, down-picked precision) and how much more fearsome and fleshed-out the vocals are, while the frenetic fretwork, malicious melody lines, and heretically infectious hooks of “Disturbing Roars at Twilight” showcases the band’s new level of intensity and intricacy in a manner reminiscent of classic God Dethroned.
Both the ten-tonne title-track and the ridiculously catchy “Enter the Witch House” have a touch of Testament’s more deathly material (think Low/The Gathering) to them, with the latter also slathering on some searing blackened vibes reminiscent of Goatwhore, Skeletwonwitch too – and both just happen to be two of the album’s best tracks – after which the blasting brutality of “Annihilation Prayer” swings the pendulum back towards a more savage and scorching Black/Death sound.
The band’s innate love for evil melody and grisly groove is on full display throughout both “Venomous Procession” and “On Top Many Layers of Horror”, with the latter in particular capable of giving anything on the most recent album by The Absence a real fun for its money in the “thrashy riffs with Melodeath twists” department, while “Black Forms Materialize” is another perfect example of how the band’s fundamental formula hasn’t changed all that much – ultimately it’s still the same blend of deathly/thrashy riffs and rhythms augmented by cruelly catchy coils of blackened melody and twisted tremolo – they’ve just become so much better at it.
It’s also worth noting that the leads and solos stand out much, much, more this time around (the hideously hooky “Judas In Hell Be Proud” being a prime specimen in this regard), and by the time the pure, unadulterated riffery of closer “On Wyvern’s Wings to Oblivion” comes pouring from your speakers you’ll probably have realised that although The Day of the Beast aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, they’ve definitely injected it with a fresh burst of energy that should keep it – and us – going for a long time to come.