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Damaged – Casualties of War Award winner

Damaged
Casualties of War
by Leanne "Metal Maiden" Evans at 23 January 2023, 2:17 AM

Back in the 1980’s, Puerto Rico was notorious for its saccharine pop music than for its embrace of heavy metal. That was until 1984 when thrash pioneers CARDINAL SIN broke the mould, and elevated a fledgling underground scene to dizzying heights, putting the Caribbean Island on the map to create a legitimate musical movement that’s still buoyant today. Imagine revolting against the masses, harnessing a refusal to conform to societal norm, and manifesting an entire metal scene that helped pave the way for a multitude of rabid metal bands who were chomping at the bit, baying for blood, and salivating for their weight in metal souls!

Well, in 1989 the inception of another blood-thirsty thrash band came to be in the form of DAMAGED, a fearless thrash outfit from Guayama, fuelled by the toxic fumes of the Bay Area scene with the sustenance of Teutonic tones in their wake. It would take a little momentum to get DAMAGED to the forefront, but once the thrash traction came, interest was garnered in the band’s homage to militant thrash, and they would become unstoppable. After their first live show in over 24 years at the Odin’s Court Spring Metal Fest, DAMAGED would then open for legendary Crossover thrashers D.R.I in 2017, with the band’s first studio EP, “Terror Alert” released later the same year. A U.S. tour would beckon the guys of DAMAGED, with the ripping debut album, “1914” soon following, with a plethora of festival appearances across Puerto Rico, and the band would also be bestowed the accolade of one of the most important metal bands of Latin America by the Spanish metal magazine, “El Cuartel del Metal”.

So, with a little of DAMAGED’s background under your belt, and without further ado, I’d like to dig into the treasure trove of thrash of the band’s sophomore album, “Casualties of War”. As you’ve probably gathered, these Puerto Rican thrashers are unafraid of exploring some of the bloodiest aspects of history, and some of the cruellest moments of humanity. With a clear fascination and respect for military history, DAMAGED bring a metal militia of hardened thrash influenced by the classics, but heavily contemporary and progressive. Think of the violent thematic tackled by SLAYER (with an uncannily Tom Araya sounding vocalist) and BOLT THROWER, coupled with the brutish attitude of SODOM, with a smattering of D.R.I/NUCLEAR ASSAULT crossover thrown in for good measure, and you’re as near as dammit to the formula of DAMAGED.

As with every decent thrash album, you can expect quality atmospheres created through sharp riffs aplenty, incendiary energy, napalm-infused solos, and burning vocals that engage with your soul for days. The album’s title-track and intro “Casualties of War” sets the thick, brooding tone with its combination of battalion strength in the sounds of war and its victims, stimulating harsh visions of the bloodshed created by armoured warfare in modern conflict. The scourge of ominous riffing in amongst screaming casualties, sirens, shots and blasts sets a chunky malignance, which runs seamlessly into the dark intensity of “Perpetual Warfare”. Undeniably, this track is seated as the most progressive – and longest at a listening time of 7:43 - of the offerings on “Casualties of War”, but the intriguing structure and vast nuances pique your interest, especially with the intonations of spoken narrative, hardcore gang-chant style flecks, and even crossover aspects in the vein of D.R.I and MUNICIPAL WASTE. By this point, you really notice the homage to SLAYER, and it works, especially given that DAMAGED take a fearless, exploratory attitude to producing aggressive and abrasive thrash and harness an effortless ability to produce maniacal pacing with shattering atmospheres just like Araya and the clan simulated.

Now, those shattering atmospheres that I mentioned just a moment ago? DAMAGED nail them piece by piece, chord by chord and do it with absolute conviction. The band’s use of spine-tingling, abyssally deep bass lines to backbone the tracks on “Casualties of War” sets an instant, moreish eeriness that reels you right in. Coupling this depth with transfixing hooks makes the likes of the obnoxious megalomaniac banger “A Rise to Power”, the burly “Behind Enemy Lines”, and harrowing “Last Train to Hell” fearlessly flex their brawn, resulting in nothing but unadulterated enjoyment for the hellish earworms of the choruses these tracks bring. Possessed tempos of rapid pacing, killer drum fills, well-timed tasty solos, and incessant heavy-hitting riffing all make for a ripping, intoxicating listen.

The latter section of “Casualties of War” is equally as soul-warming to any ardent thrasher, with a couple of personal touches that add some extra fire and spice into the mix. The all-out hell unleashed “The Killing Regime” beckons a blasting drum show to kick things off and plenty of structural variation to keep the snapping jaws of this thrash beast thirsting for more, whilst the sheer determination, honour and tenacity of Puerto Rico’s own brave regiment (one that participated in WW1, WW2, the Korean War, and GWOT, and achieved posthumous Purple Hearts) “65th De Infanteria” is cemented in the most bruising composition on DAMAGED’s release. And as if “Casualties of War” couldn’t get any better, this blistering album is perfectly bookended by the NUCLEAR ASSAULT crossover feeling “Nuke ‘em All” which completes the epically scathing war-themed thrash worship perfectly.

The humble production of “Casualties of War” has got the old-school appeal of rough and ready 80’s thrash and is fitting of both the cool ambience that comes naturally with the thematic, and the crossover segments infused within. But make no mistake, DAMAGED is an aficionado of its craft - with a delectable palate for high-quality, filthy thrash at that – and its stalwart thrash tastes shine through like a beacon of light paving the way of a darkly delicious journey through the maelstrom of aggressive thrash. DAMAGED has produced a certified thrash banger and created a passionately written, carnage-inducing, rabid recipe of napalm-infused, boisterous metallic filth that you simply can’t get enough of.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Casualties of War
2. Perpetual Warfare
3. A Rise to Power
4. If I Die in Battle
5. Behind Enemy Lines
6. Last Train to Hell
7. The Killing Regime
8. 65th De Infanteria
9. Nuke ‘em All
Lineup:
Jose Oscar Torres – Vocals/Guitars
Ferdinand “Fer” Olmeda – Lead Guitar
Charlie Force – Bass/Backing Vocals
Wampa Zayas – Drums
Record Label: Independent
     


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