At the Edge of Damnation reviews

86%
Felix%201666 on September 4th, 2016

Spooky

It has taken far too long, but now the rereleases of both Deathwish albums are at hand. This is definitely good news for all those who did not have the mercy of an early birth. (Forgive me this therapeutic wording - it helps me to endure my age.) The ignorant youth has the possibility to discover one of the best British bands of the late eighties and to enrich their collections with two jewels. I prefer the almost immaculate "Demon Preacher", but the debut is a very good full-length as well. Just have a look at the euphoric reviews of our colleagues. They send clear signals in this context.

Every beginning is hard. "In the Name of God", the first song of "At the Edge of Damnation", suffers from a slightly awkward chorus. Despite this minor flaw, it is a decent opener, but the remaining tracks of the A side hit the mark much more impressively. Deathwish play a form of prototypical black thrash metal. I freely confess: back in 1987, we did not know how to name their style of metal. It was just thrash metal. Yet today I realize that the compositions of the talented four-piece had a slightly satanic touch as well. Please note that the musicians were definitely no Satanists. Similar to their compatriots of Venom, they just created a certain scenario without forgetting their real characters. Nevertheless, the dudes were authentic in their roles. With that said, let's tackle the main issue, the further songs of "At the Edge of Damnation".

The tunes are perfectly aligned with the artwork (or vice versa). They are therefore rather simple, but with clear structures. Furthermore, they convey a spooky feeling and, last but not least, they have style. Deathwish commute between mid-tempo and high speed, they do not lack of aggression and the outstanding riffs are their biggest asset. "Demonic Attack" blows the listener away due to its energetic, restless verses, the concise chorus and its carefully thought out solo. Additionally, the lead singer delivers an excellent performance. Splendid vocal lines meet a charismatic voice that is not afraid of some high-pitched screams from time to time. Yet this is only the first highlight; many follow.

Idiots, everywhere idiots. One of them designed the back cover with the effect that the song titles do not appear in the right order. The mid-paced "Exorcist" with its double-bass driven chorus is the third track, not, as indicated, the title track. Yet this does not matter at all. Both tunes leave a lasting impression. "At the Edge of Damnation" has, of course, a perfect main riff and the chorus develops a very specific dynamic. Only the solo part is somewhat strange, because it does not possess the fundamental heaviness of the other song parts. Anyway, all these pretty irrelevant details are forgiven as soon as the furious "Leaving Your Life Behind" blows the horns for attack. Razor-sharp guitar lines form an unbending thrash jewel. To put it in a nutshell, the songs of the A side deserve the highest praise, only the opener cannot keep the pace. And there is another small deficiency. The production lacks slightly of power. The single instruments are not perfectly defined. But I don't care. Although this is not the most brilliant mix in the history of metal, it is absolutely acceptable and everybody who does not buy this album just because of its sound needs a doctor. We who are healthy enjoy the old school feeling.

The B side... is a typical B side. Guess you know what I mean. There is not a significant loss of quality and the robust and powerful tracks remind the listener of the fact that it is always good to be able to play air guitar. "For Evil Done", for instance, has all it needs to be a well respected member of the thrash community. Doubtlessly, coherent riffs, the hoarse yet vigorous voice and logical structures still characterize the songs. Yet whenever I have to choose between the A and the B side, my decision is clear. Nevertheless, "Sword of Justice", a close relative of "Demonic Attack", gets the pulse racing faster in view of its straight and fast conception. Deathwish were just too strong to write mediocre tracks and the entire album is worth listening. So many bands have molested us with half-baked comebacks (names like Metal Church, Running Wild or Bulldozer come to my mind) with the effect that I don't know whether to laugh or to cry that Deathwish never returned. However, the quality of their two classic albums will remain unaffected.

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90%
hells_unicorn on September 4th, 2016

Primitive principles of perdition.

The British thrash metal scene often gets razzed for being behind the curve when compared with their German and American counterparts (America naturally includes both U.S. and Brazilian affiliates). This would seem to stem from the fact that Britain was the hub of the original punk rock scene and much of the subsequent hardcore scene, which had a massive influence upon the formation of thrash metal, thus Britain should have had a more direct hand in pioneering said style rather than the likes of San Francisco and New York. Still, even detractors of many of Britain's latecomer acts such as Xentrix and D.A.M. have to give credit to the likes of Onslaught and Sabbat for giving the early masters a run for their money, and the same story holds true for a short-lived adherent in Deathwish, a band that arguably understood the Motorhead influence upon the style better than most, particularly on their extremely raw and vital first foray into the 80s thrash scene in At The Edge Of Damnation.

A key factor in separating the Deathwish sound from most of the British and the American scene is their arrangement, which consists of one guitarist in spite of the band's sound being largely riff oriented and solo happy. In terms of execution, Dave Brunt walks a fairly thin line between the older bluesy approach of Fast Eddie Clarke and the shredding darkness of Frank Blackfire. The resulting sound of cruising speeders such as "In The Name Of God" and "Demonic Attack" could be chalked up as a speed metal infused and dirtier, yet fairly similar experience to Sodom's Persecution Mania. The analogy is obviously far from a perfect one given that vocalist Jon Van Doorn has more of a soulfully tuned shout mixed with an occasional shrieking and gravely approach that's more of a transitional NWOBHM sound than a precursor to extreme metal, and also as the riff work reminisces on the Motorhead influences and comes off almost as much rocking as it does speed metal.

It should be noted that while the speed metal elements of this effort are the strong point, and showcase a far more memorable version of what Vectom was trying to do a year or two prior, things prove to be almost as effective in mid-paced territory. The crunchy riff-work meshed with the raunchy and equally prominent bass work (almost making this sound Manowar-influenced at times) results in a pounding set of rock based songs that make for more of a well-rounded listen. When things are fast, it definitely has more of a German character to it and almost wants to cross over into Teutonic Trio territory, but the slower offerings definitely point to that sort of punk/hardcore infused rocking character that was a bit more indicative of fellow early British thrashers Onslaught. Particularly on "Dance Of The Dead" and "At The Edge Of Damnation" the bass-heavy, muddy, Black Sabbath-inspired character of this album rears its ugly head and is only really tempered by the more traditional vocal performance and the fairly fancy yet tried and true guitar solos.

Prior to now, this band's body of work (namely this album and the one that followed a year after) were not widely available outside of the original 12" vinyl versions, not all that unlike the first two Angel Dust albums from the same time period, making this a potential boon for younger fans of the darker side of the recent thrash metal revival that are curious as to where Britain stood in the mid to late 80s. It's a pity that this outfit didn't reform as many of their contemporaries did in response to the resurgence in interest with regard to the older style. Then again, a lot of the older stalwarts opted to modernize rather than stick to what they originally did best (*cough* Exodus), so it may not have proved to be a blessing. But whatever the case, this is among the more underrated offerings out of the thrash scene as a whole, and while the follow up Demon Preacher is the superior outing, both albums are essentially to any trustee of old school thrash where the risk goes beyond a cheap beer hangover or a pizza induced fit of indigestion.

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98%
baldeagle8 on November 30th, 2008

RIFF MONSTERS!

I came across this album in a second hand shop and bought it due to liking the cover (it looked very old school metal). I played it not expecting much for my £4 outlay but was totally blown away! The production is a bit rough but not with out it's charm, the musicanship is not the most technical but pretty competent. The main thing about this record is THE RIFFS, they are MASSIVE! The songwriting is also far too good for an almost unknown band. Each of the tracks have their own character are quite distinctive from one another.

The album kicks off with 'In the Name Of God' which to my ears sounds like Motorhead crossed with Manowar! 'Demonic Attack' starts of with a medium paced chug and then thrashes like a bastard. The title track is medium paced, has a fantastic, heavy sliding riff sounding like something of 'Kill Em All' (only better). 'Exorcist' is a medium paced song bristling with evil intent. 'Leaving Your Life Behind' is a good honest thrasher but still a slight drop in quality and again sounding a bit like 'Kill Em All Metallica'. Speaking of Metallica, Dance of the Dead is a medium paced killer and sounds EXACTLY like a track off 'The Black Album' (can't remember which one) but as this came out in 87 did Metallica rip THEM off? (I know that Lars is a scholar of obscure metal albums). 'For Evil Done' is a pretty good riff fest but a slight slip in quality (as it lacks the killer chorus contained in some of the other tracks). 'Sword of Justice' (a song about vigilantes!) sounds like Manowar crossed with Metallica but rocks harder that both bands combined! The final track 'Forces of Darkness' starts of with a worringly clean riff but then rocks out with some demonicly head crushing riffing for a full nine minuets!

Why wasn't this band massive? I expect had they been American they would have been, but to contridict myself the album sounds so totally British they could have only ever come from over here. So in conclusion, if you want a break from the bloated (and often overated) American thrash bands give this lost classic a listen you wont be dissapointed! Right I'm off to track down the bands second release 'Demon Preacher'!

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96%
cravingforvenom on October 16th, 2008

It thrashes and also pounds without mercy!!!!!!

Deathwish, a band that never really springs up when the talk is all about a genre like thrash metal, unless of course you end up digging an old UK metal magazine to find its name lost somewhere in between. Despite crafting out a crushing album chocked full with thrash riffs and brilliant solos, this album just about managed to leave its mark on the metal scene. Having said that, it did manage to find a place amidst the best thrash metal bands of all time to come out of the UK. That’s more than just a consolation considering that it got listed alongside big names like Sabbat, Xentrix, Seventh Angel and Slammer.

The style Deathwish specialized in didn’t sound anything like bay area thrash or even teutonic thrash which was garnering a massive fan base all across the planet. These guys could have copied the same sound and jumped on the same bandwagon that categorized the aforementioned genres. Rather, they carved out their own unique sound by playing ultra heavy pounding riffs more in the vein of doom metal but with the exception being their execution following the standard thrash formula with a few punk influences thrown in here and there. They were heavily influenced by the likes of Black Sabbath, Venom and Motorhead In other words this band had certainly done their homework and were extremely determined as to what they had to offer on this album.

Let me firstly start off with the vocal work of Jon Van Doorn on this LP. This guy may have been one of the most talented vocalists in metal back then. His vocals are nothing short of remarkable and he uses them very articulately in each and every song. He knows when to keep his baritone high and when to shriek out the occasional screams without overdoing either one whatsoever. Another thing observed in here is the musicianship which is brilliant. The guys sure knew what they were playing. Each riff sounded well in place without giving you the feeling that they were trying to be technical in their approach alongside the drumwork which sounds quite professional too.

Now for the tracks on this album. Starts off with “In the name of God’ which is a fairly good thrasher with Jon Van Doorn making good use of his baritone without sounding sloppy whatsoever. “Demonic Attack” is another speedier track with good catchy riffs and a great chorus. “At the edge of damnation” is a mid paced slab of thrash metal with a brilliant intro riff that creates the backbone for this song. “Exorcist” kicks off with the chants of an exorcist which immediately transforms into another kickass track. “Leaving your life behind” is another good speed metaller with just a few breakdowns thrown in while “Dance of the dead” is yet another mid paced track with an intro riff that echoes in your head for a long time.

The remaining three tracks namely “For Evil Done, Sword of Justice and Forces of Darkness” do not disappoint at all. “For Evil Done” is probably the weakest track on this album though it sounds good nevertheless. Sword of Justice is the fastest one with good fast riffs and excellent drumwork. The final track “Forces of Darkness” ,over 9 minutes long kicks off with an acoustic solo before going full blooded and finishing off things in a solid thrashy style.

The production may sound unpolished but appropriate enough for their brand of thrash metal. The instruments don’t overshadow each other thus making it a good listen. Worshippers of old school thrash and traditional 80s metal should grab this album. Makes up for lost nostalgia too.

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At the Edge of Damnation track list

1In the Name of God04:08
2Demonic Attack03:45
3At the Edge of Damnation04:31
4Exorcist03:13
5Leaving Your Life Behind05:18
6Dance of the Dead05:19
7For Evil Done04:58
8Sword of Justice03:32
9Forces of Darkness09:08

At the Edge of Damnation lineup

Jon Van DoornVocals
Dave DeathwishGuitars
Stuart RangerBass
Brad SimsDrums