Cult of the Dead by Legion of the Damned
Release date : December 2008
Reviewed by Anthony Morgan
In early May 2008, it was revealed that the title of Legion of the Damned's third album (the group had previously issued albums under the moniker Occult) was Cult of the Dead. Additionally, several track names were unveiled, and the full length was tentatively due for issue during early 2009. Days later however, a December 19th release date was confirmed. Over the course of three weeks, the record was laid down at Borgentreich, Germany's Stage One Studio with the aid of producer Andy Classen. Once again, Tony “Skullcrusher” Manero penned lyrics. The album spawned two artwork covers, respectively designed by Thomas Ewerhard (who's designed artwork for such groups as Amon Amarth, and Edguy) and Davide (who's designed artwork for the likes of Nile and Threshold).
During mid October, it was announced that Cult of the Dead would be issued in three differing formats, specifically; a regular jewel case version, a three-disc edition which includes a bonus CD and bonus DVD, and a limited edition digipack version which boasts a bonus DVD. The three-disc edition's CD reportedly features live recordings lifted from the group's 2006 Rock Hard festival performance in Germany, whilst its DVD includes footage of Legion of the Damned performing the entire album in the group's rehearsal room, not to mention interview clips. By mid November, “Sermon of Sacrilege” and “Pray and Suffer” were available for streaming via the outfit's official MySpace page. Handled by Lowlife Media Productions (who've worked with the likes of Exodus, Masterplan, Kataklysm, and Wintersun), the title track's music video surfaced via MySpace soon after.
Soft, steady drumming inaugurates “Sermon of Sacrilege”, and within seconds, an auspicious choir fades the drumming into the background. Possessing religious, majestic overtones, tension gradually builds, causing the listener to wonder as to what musical stylings will follow. Thunder subsequently cracks, and an ominous, demonic voice embarks upon a monologue. Listener's unfamiliar with Legion of the Damned's material would casually assume that Cult of the Dead's lyrical fabric concerns an epic swords and sorcery tale, fodder more commonplace in the Power Metal genre. However, such assumptions fall wide of the mark.
Generally, Cult of the Dead's tracks span three to four minutes, never succumbing to excess. During “Pray and Suffer”, vocalist Maurice Swinkels' intonations surface, stylings which prove extremely similar to those favoured by Tom Angelripper (Sodom vocalist). Not unfamiliar with melody, Swinkels' vocals feature hooks which galvanize chorus and verse alike. Should Swinkels become disillusioned with Thrash Metal, then Black Metal's sphere would welcome the Dutchman with open arms. Each respective track allows the listener to settle into the verse's chosen groove, as displayed within the likes of “Black Templar” and the title cut. Featuring the religious, majestic overtones prevalent upon “Sermon of Sacrilege”, the title cut demonstrates the fact that menacing intros precede tunes in select instances. Maddening voices whisper indecipherable words, introducing “House of Possession”. Throughout Cult of the Dead, abrupt instrumental passages materialize; this heightens towards its zenith upon the aforementioned track, though resurfaces to a lesser extent upon such cuts as “Black Wings of Yog-Sothoth”. These sections cause the listener to headbang, an impregnable urge perhaps best illustrated by the breakdown section which furnishes Slayer's prime cut “Angel of Death”. The shadow of early 20th century pulp horror master H. P. Lovecraft looms heavily over Cult of the Dead's lyrical content, as proven by “Pray and Suffer”'s allusion to Egyptian icon Imhotep, and the presence of Cthulhu Mythos character Yog-Sothoth in “Black Wings of Yog-Sothoth”'s very song title. Such lyrical preoccupations adhere to Thrash tradition, one which reached its widest audience courtesy of Metallica (a couplet lifted from 1921 short story “The Nameless City” features in 1986 track “The Thing That Should Not Be”, whilst 1984 instrumental “The Call of Ktulu” took its title from the 1926 short story of the same name). Mid paced riffing inaugurates the latter, accelerating in pace once the number approaches forty seconds in length.
Should you take extreme delight in material penned by the fathers of Teutonic Thrash, namely Sodom, Kreator and Destruction, then Cult of the Dead is a recommended purchase. Swinkels hook-laden vocals animate each respective line, and when their absence generates a void, this void is capably addressed by memorable, concise instrumentals. Additionally, a groove underpins each composition, forming a tenacious structure. No track particularly earmarks itself as a highlight; individually critiqued, none would cement an excessively favourable impression in the listener's mind. Critiqued as an assortment of tracks however, Cult of the Dead demonstrates its worth as a weighty, respectable Thrash album.