A Journey For The Damned

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. All Hope In Fire
02. Beyond The Gates
03. The Serpent's Rise
04. Blood On The Altar
05. Damnation's Black Winds
06. Into The Abyss Once More
07. Pathways

Dark things are afoot in the UK. Purveyors of a vicious and unholy strain of blackened death metal, MASTER'S CALL hail from Wolverhampton, which is only a few lines of ants away from the birthplace of heavy metal itself. Arriving seemingly from nowhere, these glowering lords of leather and steel have actually spent most of a decade honing their sound, which may explain why "A Journey For The Damned" sounds so authoritative. Bands peddling this hybrid of death and black metal are in plentiful supply at all times, but records as punishing and characterful as this are extremely rare.

Everything about this works, from the band's coolly infernal logo, to the eerie, horror-adjacent atmospherics that usher in brutal opener "All Hope In Fire". Even before the first of many limb-severing riffs kicks in, MASTER'S CALL are radiating pestilent charisma. When hell does erupt, the efficacy of the band's brutal, sinewy attack is impossible to deny. "A Journey For The Damned" is a deeply heavy and sonically strident record, with textural echoes of recent works by BELPHEGOR and NECROPHOBIC, but with enough of its own, callous identity to establish its creators as a significant, singular force. "All Hope In Fire" sets the tone, before "Beyond The Gates" brings the full weight of Satan's sledgehammer down, as darkly melodic hooks and primitive, claustro-thrash collide, with frontman John Wilcox conjuring twisted visions from an inverted pulpit.

The temperature drops to way below zero for "The Serpent's Rise": an evocative blend of frostbitten discord and blank-eyed death metal violence, it allows itself the indulgence of a big, catchy chorus and a prevailing atmosphere of ghostly, gothic opulence. Once again, MASTER'S CALL sound more like grizzled veterans hitting a new peak of top form, rather than a new band on their debut album. Many gifted people would sever a toe or two to be able to write a song as good as "Blood On The Altar", wherein embittered melodies and classic metal dynamics are fashioned into a flawless but forlorn anthem. Similarly, "Damnation's Black Winds" is a thrilling rush of theatrical bombast and windswept triumphalism, executed with unfussy precision and tangibly connected to four decades of nefarious heavy music.

Back in death metal territory, "Into The Abyss Once More" is another four-minute model of succinctness and spite and an unapologetic tribute to old-school gloom. In contrast, "Pathways" is a more epic construction. A multi-tempo avalanche of some of the most sickeningly heavy riffs in recent memory, it builds and builds towards a harrowing, hypnotic climax and, quite possibly, the end of all things. Having sucked the oxygen from the room and replaced it with shrieking demons, MASTER'S CALL depart, safe in the knowledge that their first album is pretty fucking great and almost certainly Goatlord-approved.

Author: Dom Lawson
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