Rating:
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The Meads Of Asphodel - Damascus Steel
31 October 2005


01. Psalm 666 (Intro)
02. Creed Of Abraham
03. Hollow Womb Of Suicide
04. Sword Of The East [Hawkwind cover]
05. Satanic Black Nubian Pharaohs
06. Wonderful World [Louis Armstrong cover]
07. The Gods Who Mock Us
08. Behold The Kindred Battle Carcasses Strewn Across The Bloodied Dunes Of Gilgamesh Mute In The Frenzied Clamour Of Deaths Rolling Tongue And Ravenous Bursting Steel
09. Beyond Death And Darkness


How many times have you listened to a band and been irritated at the fact that their music doesn't seem to properly reflect the themes set by their lyrics? It can happen a lot, and coming from both a writing and a musical background, I tend to have a pretty dismissive (that is, snobby) attitude towards bands that fail to maintain a strong unity between the two. Fortunately for The Meads Of Asphodel, this has never been a problem, and their bizarre blend of black metal has always seen its topics of Christian and Middle Eastern history augmented by a careful choice of instruments and compositional structure. Damascus Steel, the band's third album, sits at an interesting point in their discography, both continuing upon the path set by their previous material, while also exploring some more sophisticated, perhaps bolder territory.

Damascus Steel (along with its successor, The Murder Of Jesus The Jew) is probably the one Meads album where the Middle Eastern themes feel the most fully developed. This atmosphere is set immediately with the brief intro "Psalm 666," featuring a sample of a George Bush speech about the Iraq War linked to a reading of Psalm 23, with a sarcastic, tongue in cheek irony that can only be recognized as one of the distinct trademarks of the band. What follows is a contorted journey through raw black metal ("Creed Of Abraham"), some groovy techno elements ("The Gods Who Mock Us"), and (perhaps the most impressive aspect of the songwriting) a fantastic use of native percussion to help give the music a distinct tribal edge, such as on "Hollow Womb Of Suicide" and the massive "Behold The Kindred Battle Carcasses," easily one of the best cuts these Brits have ever done. Curiously enough, Damascus Steel also sees the Meads departing from tradition, as it is their last album to feature any cover songs, including an extremely bastardized version of Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World." Describing the differences would simply ruin the fun: just listen to it and let the hilarity ensue as intended.

What really makes Damascus Steel the excellent album that it is, however, is its highly evolved attention to a variation in production, and it is likely the best of the band's discography in this regard. With the more aggressive moments, The Meads Of Asphodel hark back to the days of The Excommunication Of Christ and their early demos, and very dirty, murky technique is employed. Meanwhile, when the more experimental tracks rear their heads, this filth somewhat gets mopped up, in favor of a more crisp delivery that brings everything out and sounds a lot more all-encompassing. This style would only be further embellished upon in the band's future, and it is almost impossible to imagine the sound of albums like The Murder Of Jesus The Jew and Sonderkommando without the groundwork that Damascus Steel helped to lay.

Damascus Steel can thus be seen as a sort of a pivotal crossroads for The Meads Of Asphodel, an album that both paid respects to their roots while also transcending them, planting the seeds for many ideas to come in the process. That cliche that a band's third album is the "make it or break it point" more than stands true in this case. The Meads were happy with their sound up to that point, but they also wanted to push it to the brink, to see how far they could go with it, and they succeeded. Many people often consider The Murder Of Jesus The Jew to be the peak of the band's career, which it very much is, but it's also important for diehard fans to remember that Damascus Steel was a fundamental stepping stone that helped them get there, and launched them into the superior songwriting and critical acclaim that you now see them both producing and receiving.

Is Santa Claus black? Does it snow in Africa?


Band profile: The Meads Of Asphodel
Album: Damascus Steel


 



Written on 10.06.2014 by
Apothecary
"Show me a sane man, and I will cure him for you"
-Carl Jung
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Hex_Omega - 21.06.2014 at 15:41  
I must admit that this album is good and finally I'm starting to like it.
Apothecary - 21.06.2014 at 16:27  
Written by Hex_Omega on 21.06.2014 at 15:41

I must admit that this album is good and finally I'm starting to like it.

Ah, I was wondering when someone would notice that I had done this review, as it was off the front page. Glad you're enjoying it man, it's definitely a really varied and well thought out work of art. If you want to take things a step farther with these guys (or if you're just a history nerd, like myself) I'd also highly recommend you read some of Metatron's lyrical essays while listening to the music. Unfortunately he's only done ones for The Murder Of Jesus The Jew and Sonderkommando, but still very enlightening and informative of the topics behind the lyrics. Both can be found on the Meads website.
Hex_Omega - 21.06.2014 at 18:51  
Written by Apothecary on 21.06.2014 at 16:27

Written by Hex_Omega on 21.06.2014 at 15:41

I must admit that this album is good and finally I'm starting to like it.

Ah, I was wondering when someone would notice that I had done this review, as it was off the front page. Glad you're enjoying it man, it's definitely a really varied and well thought out work of art. If you want to take things a step farther with these guys (or if you're just a history nerd, like myself) I'd also highly recommend you read some of Metatron's lyrical essays while listening to the music. Unfortunately he's only done ones for The Murder Of Jesus The Jew and Sonderkommando, but still very enlightening and informative of the topics behind the lyrics. Both can be found on the Meads website.

That might be really interesting. Looks like you are a huge fan of this band.
Apothecary - 21.06.2014 at 19:28  
Written by Hex_Omega on 21.06.2014 at 18:51

Looks like you are a huge fan of this band.

Guilty as fucking charged
I dunno man, I just love music that strikes a great balance between the aggressive and the epic, while using a wide array of compositional techniques without ever seeming boring. Also, I'm a total whore for ancient history, of the Middle East in particular because I am in fact Lebanese. The Meads combine all of that for me more so than any other band I've come across thus far, it's a really personal thing. Next album can't come quick enough!

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