Occasionally held back by production issues and musical experimentation

Melodic orchestral death is a genre of metal usually associated with European bands, except when one considers Sydney’s Anno Domini.

Their 2010 debut Atrocities showcased their ability to seamlessly blend death metal and orchestral elements into hugely epic arrangements that were never over the top or cheesy. The band have expanded this skill on their new EP “The Downfall”, while taking a slightly different approach to their song writing in order to develop a more refined sound. It’s a bold move by the band, and for the most part it works.

This is not to say that “The Downfall” is radically different from Atrocities, with the opening track “Against All Godds” bearing the same intensity as the band’s previous offerings. Their song structure has improved considerably however, with all instrumental arrangements hitting the mark dead on, particularly the drums. A few tracks on Atrocities felt somewhat uncertain of the genre they were attempting to pursue, resulting in a convoluted structure. “The Downfall” does away with this, presenting tracks that flow from start to finish with smooth transitions between solos, breakdowns and orchestral elements. But their greatest strength lies in allowing the orchestral elements to play a supporting role to the metal, adding an incredibly epic tone to each song. This is particularly evident in the closing track “Condemned”, where death metal music is supported by a film score-esque stringed section of gargantuan proportions.

“The Downfall” does venture into the realm of experimentation for the band however, particularly the instrumental track that shares the EP’s name. It’s a solid, progressive death metal tune with some impressive arrangements, and works well as a bridge between tracks one and two. But it never breaks into something truly unique, remaining in a safe zone of melancholy strings and piano arrangements that seem to want to move the listener, but end up sounding close to the clichés of sad, morose music. This doesn’t detract from the epic tone of the song, but it does make it feel somewhat less powerful than Anno Domini may have intended. At one point during “Against All Godds”, the long, drawn out vocals are replaced by rapidly spoken lyrics that are almost akin to hip-hop. This new lyrical approach fails to blend with the backing track, severing breaking the flow and epic tone that defines the band.

Finally, the band chose to record and produce the album themselves, and while the recording quality is fantastic, the production falls short. Outside their solos, the guitars are barely audible, while drums and vocals dominate each track. Not because they are too loud, but because the guitars are too quiet. The strings always sit perfectly in their supportive role, loud enough to hear but never enough to dominate.

“The Downfall” is being distributed online and in a very limited 1000 pressing run to be given away on their upcoming tour with Sybreed. It’s a solid EP that shows how AD have matured as song writers and composers, but is occasionally held back by production issues and musical experimentation. Despite this,”The Downfall” is an epic journey into melodic death.

1. Against All Godds
2. Downfall
3. Condemned