Black Metal is a very interesting subgenre in the world of Metal and part of that is due to its underrated sense of versatility. While brutality and aggressive vocals is something that is par for the course when it comes to Black Metal, the style has grown and evolved over the years, becoming something a lot more varied, complex and, dare I say, sophisticated.
In that regard, the protagonists of today’s article, Damnationis and their new album, The Fallen Princess, are a very good example of far Black Metal has come over the years.
The band hails from France and they started out in 2006 as Damnation, but eventually changed their names to Damnationis in 2018 after lots of ups and downs. They made an EP in 2008, Path to Hell, but after a lot of ordeals and challenges, the band has come fully fleshed with their debut album, 2023’s Fallen Princess.
After a dramatic, symphonic intro called Melkor Melody, we get the first proper track of Fallen Princess, Dominus… Spiritus… Satanas. One of the most interesting parts is the guitar tone and work of Stéphane Leonardi and Jean-Philippe Piscione. A lot of Black Metal bands tend to struggle with a good balance of sound, melodies and production, but the opening song already shows us that Damnationis has a very nice grasp of that.
The song itself is aggressive, but it is very interesting how the band is not going all out. The song has some extreme elements, but the epic factors, couple with the demonic vocals of Patrice Bresson, is a total treat for people that enjoy several Metal subgenres.
Possession is the following song and one of the key elements here is how the guitars combine with the amazing drumming skills of Jeremy Hubert to do something very enjoyable. If you have listened to these songs by Damnationis, you will begin to notice that this moves away from a lot of traditional elements of old school Black Metal while keeping some of the intensity.
In fact, comparisons to former giants of the subgenre, Dimmu Borgir, are more than valid in this particular regard. For example, Satan’s Prophecy is a very good example of what you can do and achieve with Black Metal while keeping that melodic and technical approach to things; it has a very nice progression and the song stays in your mind after you finished listening to it. It is definitely one of my favorite pieces of the entire album.
I feel that Path to Hell manages to combine all the best elements of the band in a little bit more than four minutes, which is definitely great. I would also like to point some passages where you can hear some Doom Metal influences thrown into the riffs; it feels like something that Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi would pull off, so that is always a nice detail. The song goes into overdrive and is a very nice way of doing so.
Robber of Dream has some nice guitar work here and there, but I feel that is one of the weakest songs in the album, often feeling a bit underwhelming. On the other hand, the title track is quite solid and the opening seconds reminds me a bit to what classic melodic Black Metal bands, such as Dissection or Immortal, would do in their prime, which is always nice. A lot of people complain when bands show off their influences, but I enjoy it quite a lot.
God is the Devil has a slow build up that I enjoyed quite a lot because it separates the song from the rest we have seen so far. In general terms, it is one of the finest songs of the entire album and I like how it takes its time, focusing on atmosphere and slowly building towards borderline grandiose. It is one of the wonders of combining the epic with Black Metal: it leads to something both dark and marvelous in terms of the execution.
I would say that the last real track of the album, named after the band, Damnationis, is a very nice way to end the experience. It is heavy, powerful and with a lot of personality; the moment that opening guitar riff kicks in, you know you’re in for a ride. It’s one of the most Metal songs of the album, leaving the epic elements a bit aside, and I think it is a nice way to end the whole thing. It leaves you wanting more. The last song, Echoe of Azathoth, is more of an outro than anything else.
Overall, Damnationis’ The Fallen Princess was a very fun experience and I had a lot of fun listening to it. It is certainly meant for Black Metal fans, but there is a certain melodic touch that makes it stand out from their competition. Definitely a band you have to keep an eye on.