When I saw what kind of music Damascus played, I was expecting another Explosions In The Sky or Sigur Ros ripoff. Every time I hear a new band playing instrumental post-rock, I expect the worse. Not because I don't like post-rock, but because it is A) hard to get right and B) crazily overdone. But the music of Damascus has something that separates it from the post-rock that we keep hearing. That something is, simply put, balls.
By mixing heavier guitars into their sound and playing with some progressive arrangements and compositions, the band has completely avoided the need to pile on the reverb and work a slow build on their album Heights. They're also able to include a lot more melody in their songs. This is especially true on the opening track, "Come To Light,” a song that has such a wide dynamic range that my ears failed to become bored at any moment. And I'm not a fan of instrumental music!
The album was recorded in three days in December and that fast pace has done their music a great service. When you record quickly, you ask fewer questions and just work on the music. It also shows how well rehearsed your band is before entering the studio. The guys that make up this band very obviously knew what they wanted to do before heading in to record. "Heights,” the title track, showcases that by bringing in more of the band's metal influences and spending quite a bit of time sounding truly epic. It feels like a battle scene from a movie.
The metal continues on "All Points Below,” though the tempo is increased and less melodic. "Just Another Illustration" is the oddball in the group, but it's a welcome break from the energy of the other tracks. Where the other songs are loud and driving, this one is quiet and ambient, like listening to a guitarist in a warehouse. The final track, "Want For Nothing,” brings the focus back to a wide dynamic range between loud and quiet, fast and slow. And it holds your attention for the nine-and-a-half-minutes that you're listening to it.
Heights gives me hope for the post-rock genre and instrumental music in general. It doesn't have to be boring and it doesn't have to be drenched in reverb. It can be simply good, heavy music with creative arrangements.
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