Damnation Plan – The New Horizon (Inverse Records)

Friday, 1st September 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

Changes remain constant throughout the evolution of progressive-oriented bands, even in the metal genre. Finnish band Damnation Plan previously incorporated both harsh and clean vocals through two different singers – with Tommy Tuovinen stepping away after the last release in 2017 Reality Illusion, the quintet decided to stick with Asim Searah and his melodic approach throughout the latest album The New Horizon. The five tracks showcase these musicians in a versatile context, willing to inject a mix of heavier, modern tones with proper musicianship-oriented songwriting, straddling the lines of proven progressive metal veterans while keeping an ear to the future in terms of their style/sound.

Certain acts in this subgenre prefer to dazzle in technical prowess over tangible qualities that the average listener can latch onto. Damnation Plan subscribe to a groove-laden hook aspect even if there are jaw-dropping guitar passages or shifting time signature parts – it’s hard to deny the chugging, low-tuned riffs or circular patterns from guitarists Kalle Niininen and Antti Lauri for “To the Sun”, the momentum rises and falls a la classic Evergrey meets latter day Symphony X. Drummer Jarkko Lunnas is a mastermind through his lyrical, production, and cover art duties – as well as his stellar mastery of thoughtful tempo control, knowing when to propel his kit skills to the hilt or lay back into the pocket, “Under the Veil of Sea” illustrating both aspects over the course of it’s almost eight-minute arrangement. The record ends on more of a reflective, semi-power ballad note for “Emotional Trials”, Asim garnering opportunities to emote through the verses in a lower register beyond his natural mid-range to slightly higher comfort zone. His delivery plus passion for the genre reminds this scribe of early 90’s Ray Alder meets Russell Allen, allowing the band to circulate in any direction desired be it lighter, heavier, brighter, or darker.

Interestingly compact at slightly over 32 minutes, The New Horizon sets Damnation Plan up brilliantly to this next phase of their career. Hopefully those who appreciated the melodic progressive/death stance of the past will not deny the natural moves made due to the lineup change – as there’s still enough weight on the musical side to keep modern audiences satisfied, while probably gaining even more progressive metal followers in the process.

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