(In late February Metal Blade Records released a new album by Colorado-based Allegaeon, and our old friend TheMadIsraeli has re-surfaced with the following review.)
I’ve been taking a sizable break from NCS to recover from the holidays, to the point where I decided not to submit year-end lists or any of the usual annual stuff you see from us here, and… I’m glad I took the break. To be real for a second, sometimes it can just get exhausting to keep up with the constant barrage of new shit. Sometimes you want to just listen to old stuff, sometimes you don’t want to listen at all. At the peak of my NCS output I legit listened to 300 albums a month guaranteed. ALL while juggling college and family that needed taking care of to some degree or another.
However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t get a rush out of hearing the new stuff, whether that’s from underdogs or reliable all-stars. Allegaeon’s Damnum was always my album from the start as a way to come back to the site reviewing. It was the first thing I had knowledge of that I was truly excited about coming into 2022. Also, it just felt fortuitous that it came out the same day as Elden Ring if I’m being honest.
Photo by Caleb Dane Young
Allegaeon shouldn’t be new to anyone who reads us. They’re arguably the number one melodic death metal export for America in a lot of people’s minds. In my estimation, they have built one of the most consistently good discographies of any modern metal band right now, all while maintaining a constant trend of evolution and shake-ups to their sound that keeps things diverse and interesting.
I’ve had the promo for this since January I believe now? Listened to it 100 times within the following two weeks and since then have never listened to it again. Not because I didn’t love it mind you, but specifically because I wanted to try a new approach, and see how the music would stick in my head without exposure to it. After that, I’d give it a final listen before writing a word.
I love this band, and you want to know why? It’s because these guys are legit musicians who live for the craft. What do I mean by that?
Well, Allegaeon have never played it safe. They’ve refused to stick to one consistent sound,, to a degree that they’re becoming a bit hard to classify honestly. It’s melodic death metal, it’s thrash metal, it’s death metal, it’s progressive, it’s deathcore at times and they constantly oscillate back and forth between all these things with a command of the medium that is only rivaled by a few others that come to mind for me. This, however, has also made them an interesting band to parse.
In maybe a rather controversial statement, I do believe there is music that is objectively good. I also believe there is music that falls into very subjective territory at the same time. A lot of people like to make these really obnoxious black-and-white, it has to be one or the other, assertions instead of realizing that maybe something as complex and intense as art can’t be boxed in like that. The objective elements are clearly there, at least if you know your music theory and what it takes to play an instrument. Allegaeon are CLEARLY exceptional at their instruments of choice, and their songwriting chops and sense of harmony and melody is complex in a beautifully interwoven way that makes complete sense with a little bit of intellectual engagement from the listener required to parse it all out.
The subjective element, though, definitely comes in the way that Allegaeon have always breathlessly jumped from one evolutionary step to another, album to album. I think their entire discography is objectively great and consistent to a degree that is enviable, BUT, I guarantee you that subjectively, due to the diversity of this band’s discography, you won’t be able to find that any ten given people at random will give you the same top three-album list. Let’s do a test run of that actually: give me your top three favorite Allegaeon albums in the comments.
Given this premise, it makes it a bit harder to review the band’s new record Damnum because I can’t just establish the narrative of “BEST ALBUM YET” and use that to heap tons of hyperbolic praise on it. Damnum is great, like all Allegaeon is great, it’s just going to fall on whether you take to the way the band has remixed their sound this time.
One comparison has really been unable to leave the depths of my very soul when it comes to this record, and that is the feeling that Damnum is like Allegaeon’s version of an Into Eternity record. It’s Proponent For Sentience by way of Buried In Oblivion and I love it to death. It’s got the constant riff with leads dynamic going on, constant shred, big epic hella layered clean vocal choruses, a lot of more unorthodox proggish writing structure, and a dedication to maintaining high energy while doing all those things. If you were a big fan of the band’s last record Apoptosis (as was I), you know this sounds like a significant departure from that album in a way that’s pretty opposite.
The big thing this album has is energy. Allegaeon has always had it, but the aforementioned Proponent For Sentience was always the most aggressively enthusiastic of their albums, and Damnum feels like a slightly darker and more complex spin of that ethos. So, does that mean it’s Allegaeon’s best album to date or what?
It’s objectively great, but as I previously discussed, this band’s discography has been so all over the place that establishing a best Allegaeon album is a fool’s errand. These guys are real musicians, they push themselves to do new or altered-perspective takes on their sound all the time. For me, I more so love this band specifically because of that. Because of the fact they do not repeat themselves, whether that particular album jibes with me or not.