At first, Damnation A.D.‘s latest offering appears a tad cliché. Relying upon the standard standbys of the hardcore/metal/thrash (sub)genres, In This Life or the Next places a check in the box next to nearly every item on the Metal Album Item Check List. From the loud guitars and pounding drums to the angst-riddled songs to lead singer Michael “DC” McTernan sounding like Peter Brady’s attempt at Biohazard’s greatest hits, his crackling, thin vocals rasp and scream their way across each track, making you worry that this dude’s going to blow a vocal cord at any moment… Nevertheless, it all works astonishingly well. Not just McTernan’s vocals, but the rest of the formula, too. While still adhering to a tried-n’-true blueprint, the D.C.-based foursome adds new elements to an old bag of tricks. The old school thrash vibe that permeates many of the songs alternately dates Damnation A.D. to their 1993 inception, yet stands as a refreshing throwback to an early hardcore sound offering something fresh against the crop of Cookie Monster-soundalike whippersnappers currently plaguing/populating the scene. In even more of an unexpected twist, boasting a cameo that could be grounds for a metal band to have their Slayer t-shirt privileges revoked, the melodic “If You Could Remember” features guest vocals by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump. Again, the dose of unexpected makes for killer results. Heading up the group’s strong musicianship, guitarist Ken Olden’s chugging fuzz creates a dense, multi-layered wall of sound. While “Jigsaw” is a squealing, pissed-off political piece with several interesting interludes and breakdowns throughout, “Consider This a Warning” subtly brings in atmospheric synthesizers that hum in the background against thunderous drumming by Colin Keroz. The album’s title track is most exemplary of In This Life or the Next, playing with pacing and rhythm, shifting gears in the middle of the song with unexpected bursts of speed built around a melodic bassline pounded out by Alex Merchlinsky. The whole of the disc is a mixed bag of sound that is still rooted in the familiar, yet surprisingly experimental.
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