Album Review: Damnation’s Hammer – Into The Silent Nebula
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Damnation’s Hammer are a name widely recognised across the UK metal scene and for good reasons; the band have become a mainstay across numerous support slots for bigger bands that have come across Atlantic Ocean or the English Channel. Formed in 2007 by longtime guitarist and vocalist Tim Preston, out of Lancashire, United Kingdom, the band have become of the UK’s most trusted and reliable bands when it comes to heavy metal. Steady is the word that best applies to Damnation’s Hammer’s career having released their first Demo in 2010 which was followed by their first full length work, Disciples Of The Hex, in 2012. The band released a follow-up, 2017’s Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres yet went quiet soon afterwards. Now, in 2023, the band released a handful of Singles in the run-up to the release of their third album, Into The Silent Nebula, prepped for a September 15th release date. Considering how Damnation’s Hammer are so well known amongst the UK scene, I’ve never actually sat down to listen to them formally. Here, I had that opportunity.
Where many heavy metal bands would want to immerse their audience from the opening seconds, it’s curious how Damnation’s Hammer take the other route, slowly easing us into their soundscape before the main crux of their songwriting takes place. Now this isn’t surprising really, given the traditional roots of this band, however it speaks volumes regarding the band’s approach to pacing. When you’re listening to the band play, you get the notion that Damnation’s Hammer have a firm grasp on how quickly they’re playing, and by extension how their tempo impacts the songwriting in store for us. There’s a sense of speed to their performance, one that allows us to get on board with their playing, but there’s no inherent rush applied to their performance. Into The Silent Nebula is certainly a record that doesn’t expect you to know every word that’s going to come out of their frontman’s mouth, nor is it looking to see you keep pace with its performance; it’s far from slow but steady wins the race here, as the band allow you to walk alongside it with no difficulty discerning what’s happening at any one time.
The cleaner production quality also aids the band’s performance too for there is nothing to muddy the tone or mixing the songwriting is trying to strut forth. The riffs are taut and leave little resonance for their sound to carry on after a note or chord is played, yet there’s enough attitude within the guitar tones that Damnation’s Hammer can let their doomy heavy metal sound flow with ease without this being deemed some heavy/doom hybrid. The production helps ensure this is foremost a work of straight up heavy metal with some elements thrown in that allude to something more than newcomers may be anticipating. Amongst the UK scene, it’s this sound that’s really helped Damnation’s Hammer perpetuate a unique niche, and why many like myself are often happy to see this band in support slots across the country. The refined, yet not too polished aesthetic lends a clarity to their songwriting which in turn makes immersion all that easier to guarantee.
While the overall vibe of Damnation’s Hammer is one adhering to traditional metal styles, that’s not to infer the band don’t pack a punch, because they absolutely do. While the band’s prerogative towards intensity and pacing is to keep it down to earth, thereby making it easier to follow, their performance can ramp up now and again with instances of harder riffs, more fearsome drumming, all of which the production allows for since while the band hardly struggle to unleash their performance, the record makes allowances for when the intensity does start to climb. It’s good to note the band don’t merely stick with a singular approach to their songwriting; the overall aesthetic of their sound may be pretty well understood throughout the record but that doesn’t mean the band don’t change things up now and then when the songwriting calls for it. Sometimes you need a middle man band that’s not massively extreme yet isn’t completely relaxed, this record proves to be just that heavy compromise.
What did raise my eyebrows however was how the band manage to use songwriting to keep us engaged for longer periods than we may expect. One example is “Outpost 31”, where the band keep moving organically, without any noticeable breaks or shifts in songwriting, for more than eight minutes straight. It’s the longest track on the album and yet it didn’t feel any more elongated than your rudimentary three minute piece. The band’s style of heavy metal may not be all that ruthless but there’s a stickiness to their performance that rends it with an inescapable lure. I think it’s down to how the band choose to take their time and totally immerse you within this soundscape. That greater ease of immersion ensures guaranteed engagement and because you’re following along to what the band give you, in their own time, it leaves us increasingly on the edge what’s coming next. Before you know it, you’re relaxing to seven – eight minute long songs with nary an idea of when it’s coming to an end because it feels so intoxicating to bask in Damnation’s Hammer unique sound.
In conclusion, Into The Silent Nebula is a record that trundles along at its own pace and doesn’t expect you to rush to keep up. It’s refreshing to encounter an album that isn’t concerned with how brutal it could be, and instead opts to give us the most entertaining heavy metal performance the band can muster. It’s interesting how Damnation’s Hammer have been active since 2007 and yet the band are still considered a support act more than anything; the band have not yet broken through that barrier to fully perform headline shows as a norm just yet. But by this record’s performance it demonstrates the band certainly possess the professionalism and work effort to do just that, their first full length work in six years. I liked how there’s no fanfare or anything too superfluous with this record; the band go in, perform their songwriting, then finish the record. As a result, Into The Silent Nebula is a solid album I thoroughly enjoyed and is a must listen for anyone after something a little kinder on the senses.