The year is coming to a close and there’s been painfully few traditional doom metal albums that have held my attention. Hailing from the heart of Germany, Angel of Damnation are among the small number of doom metal bands that have truly captivated me in 2018. They’ve broken seven years worth of silence to release their sophomore album titled Heathen Witchcraft on Shadow Kingdom Records.
Angel of Damnation’s style lies somewhere between the classic sound of bands like Pentagram and the epic brand of Candlemass, but with a much stronger emphasis on the former. In fact, the Pentagram and Bedemon influence is so strong that the introduction of “Dragged to the Torture Wheel” is an homage to legendary Pentagram track “Forever My Queen”, right down to the iconic drum lines. Despite the clear old school influence on Angel of Damnation’s sound, Heathen Witchcraft has a distinct modern feel to it. This can be attributed to a lack of fuzz in the guitar tone, a crystal clear production, and the sparse, tasteful use of synths that all work together to propel the band into the present.
There’s a lot at play in Heathen Witchcraft, but what sticks out to me the most is that this album isn’t driven by the guitars nearly as much as you’d expect. There’s still plenty of memorable leads and crushing riffs, I’d imagine no less from Avenger (guitarist for Nocturnal among many other bands), but they seem deliberately crafted to allow the vocals and rhythm section to drive the music. The drudging and slow riffs pave the way for Skullsplitter’s drums to set the pace. His gloriously full tone and varied drumming, complimented by Forcas’s base and a near flawless production, establishes the entire mood of Heathen Witchcraft. All together the instrumentation opens the gates for Doomcult Messiah to usher us into the end.
Gerrit Mutz, our Doomcult Messiah, is the shining star of Heathen Witchcraft. The music is crafted in a way where his vocals are the centerpiece of the sound and he certainly does not disappoint. Those familiar with Mutz’s other projects such as Dawn of Winter, Sacred Steel, and more recently Battleroar, know what to expect from the vocalist – power and charisma. Gerrit has the hallmarks of a talented vocalist, he’s technically proficient while being undeniably unique. His voice is so distinct and full of character that I’m convinced there’s no one out there that really sounds like him. While he still has that same charming voice, his approach on Heathen Witchcraft is a bit different than what we usually get from him. The Doomcult Messiah takes a storytelling approach in his delivery, weaving tales of the dark and occult, bringing to life the heathendom and sorcery.
Heathen Witchcraft is a near fifty minute doom-filled journey into the occult. It’s one of the year’s best offerings in the genre and absolutely a must listen. It’s grown on me with each listen and I’m confident that I will return to this album regularly.
Album Rating: 90/100
Favorite Track: Brimstone Sorcery