Sunday, March 7, 2010


Not very often will an album come across that really grabs me. What I mean by that is I will reach for it before I reach for other favorites. What makes it more odd is when it’s a style that it not necessarily my favorite. It’s easy to grab the latest Rush, Saxon or Megadeth. Even some bands that I’ve been totally turned onto in recent years that are easy grabs for me such as Ultimatum, Grave Robber, Rob Rock, and Orphan Project I’ve passed over these to reach for this, Dagon’s 2009 release Terraphobic.

I’ll admit I’m not the biggest extreme metal fan. Yet I also know if a release is good and I connect with it I will enjoy it. Just the way it is. This brings me to this album by Dagon entitled Terraphobic. Much to do has been made about Dagon, from Lansing, Michigan by the way. Most of it has to do with their name, which most detractors are quick to point out is the same as a Philistine deity in the Old Testament. I also understand that the band members themselves took the name from the title of a H.P. Lovecraft monster story entitled ‘Dagon’. I prefer the monster part myself.

Terraphobic itself is a collection of some of the most melodic and wonderful sounding death metal I’ve had the privilege to hear. With powerful soaring guitar harmonies that would make Iron Maiden proud. Combined with driving intense riffs and the guttural vocals and intense screeches vocally Terraphobic is amazing. The band themselves on their MySpace indicate these influences for their sound,

“Dagon blends the melody of Swedish bands like Dark Tranquility with the aggression and speed of American bands like Slayer and Suffocation and the shredding bravado of 80’s titans like Iron Maiden.” Dagon MySpace…

No mistaking that intensity and power combined with melody. I will say that the Iron Maiden influence here is ASTOUNDING!! There is more Maiden influence than you’d believe. These guys have incorporated so many memorable harmony parts that stand in direct contrast to the bombast underneath that I would say it’s the harmonies that hold it all together. Imagine if Iron Maiden were a bit heavier at ‘Aces High’ speed with intense death metal like vocals, and harmonies from say the ‘Rime of The Ancient Mariner,’ period.

This albums opens with the onslaught of, ‘Cut to the Heart’ a fast full on speed driven tune that exalts the drive of men fighting war at sea with a superior hook in the chorus. Lyrically all of Dagon’s tunes reflect aspects of historic fear and curiosity of the Ocean. From war to monsters to pirates ect. I often think the of battle scenes from such movies as Ben Hur, 300, Gladiator, even Pirates of the Caribbean. Like Grave Robber, Dagon has built a solid atmospheric myth around their art.

‘Demons in the Dark’ is up next with an ode to Viking explorers, and has one of the best hooks on the album. Intriguing guitar passages combined with intense bass lines and drumming par excellence make this song a tour de force. The vocals by bassist Randall Ladiski and drummer Jordan Batterbee add to the atmosphere and intensity here. The Maiden style harmonies are beautiful and tie it all together. ‘Terraphobic’ is another killer tune with great melodies, but is heavy as a dump truck with the atmosphere of the ocean and ships being tossed about in the dark of night. An instant replay tune if there ever was one, lots of dynamics and moody imagery. This song is a classic song amidst a collection of classics.

Songs five and six ‘To the Drums We Rise’ (I can just see Charleton Heston in Ben Hur on board rowing to battle) builds and builds with great drum passages. Lots of dynamics interspersed with lyrics of ancient sea going battles. Flying right into the next song ‘Full Speed Ahead’ great arranging allows this song to cut a swath through the murky ocean full of smoke and fog. The drum parts during the chorus are astounding and just push everything along. Make no mistake this is the real deal.

Terraphobic isn’t the fastest album or the heaviest, even tho it is fast and heavy. One thing is for sure here is that Chris Sharrock and Briant Daniel know how to wield their axes like expert seaman charting a course by night with a sextant or nautical compass. Their playing is a highlight throughout this album.

I must say that the more I play this release the more I love it. The fact that there are songs that you could actually sing the vocal parts to is KILLER!! For me what I found the most ironic is that this album is full of death metal vocals and that is part of the appeal. I usually don’t dig those, but here the songs and melodies are SO GOOD, that the vocals are part of the dynamic. It adds to the POWER and atmosphere of the album.

The production is also fantastic, quality which allows one to hear all the instruments with clarity and definition. To me that is also probably one of the reasons why I like it. There are some synths but they are added for atmosphere. The album art is a reminder why good art gets attention. I love the picture of the dark sea with the sailing vessel in peril because of the giant sea serpent. This is why it’s called ‘Oceanic Metal,’ the themes are all of the myths and stories of the high seas. ‘Master and Commander’ anyone????

I tell you if I could get a shirt with that cover art or a poster of it I would be ecstatic, it’s awesome. Not many releases give you the total package, but this one does. Seriously, the music here is world quality. If you're not a fan of the death metal vocals but love melody take a chance and be surprised. I was and I am grateful for it. How 'bout a West Coast jaunt guys????

The album ends with the track ‘Ocean Metal,’ Dagon’s metal anthem of the call of the abyss. This album is a classic no doubt in my mind. Others won’t agree with me but what else is new. This is not a ‘Christian Band’ or a ministry minded release, but a great album of stories set to music. How can they top this release? I don't know but here's hoping to more great albums. Fans of powerful driven HEAVY METAL should dig this release without reservation Dare I give it……?

10 axes


James said...

When they released the album last spring, they had both t-shirts and hoodies with the album art on them. In fact, I'm wearing the shirt right now. Hit them up, they may still have some left.

h8r3d said...

Awesome band but the drums sound like superior drums or dfh. None the less, they are one of the better melodeath bands. skol from germany