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Ontborg – Following The Steps Of Damnation

Following The Steps Of Damnation
by Gary Hernandez at 18 March 2023, 10:46 PM

ONTBORG is a Melodic Death Metal band out of Merano, Italy. They formed in 2017 with former members of GRAVEWORM and VOICES OF DECAY. In 2019 they released their debut album, “Within the Depths of Oblivion,” and on February 24, 2023 they issued their sophomore full-length, “Following the Steps of Damnation,” via Black Lion Records. While they haven’t reinvented the subgenre, they have maintained a strong upward trajectory. With this second album, ONTBORG prove they have definite staying power for the longer haul.

With ONTBORG, the operative word in Melodic Death Metal is “melodic.” Throughout the album there is an internal consistency and harmony from the riffs to the solos to the locomotive rhythm. Vocals are all guttural, so don’t expect three-part harmonies. While Death Metal comes into play with the theme, perhaps the tempo, and some of the technical virtuosity, there are also heavy overtones of Black Metal. Most people hear a Swedish influence and there is much talk about their use of the HM-2 pedal. For the rest of us mortals, it's heavy ass distortion (more melodic than discordant) and some angry dude going on about death and shit. As Lemmy says, “And if that's all there is, it ain't so bad.”

Looking through the ten song titles, my first impression was that the album would weave a story about someone’s descent into damnation. With signposted titles like “Purgatory,” “Nightfall,” “To the North,” and “Ending Path,” it’s hard not to project a storyline. Reading through the lyrics, however, debunked that notion and, sure enough, the band’s promo material states that the album “is not based on a lyrical concept, but all songs deal with the dark side of man, life and death.” Fair enough, besides the tracks are compelling enough that they stand on their own without relying on an overarching storyline.

For standout tracks, my favs are “Steps of Damnation.” There is a reason it’s the title and lead track. It sets the tone for the rest of the album and showcases all that’s good about this band. I also really enjoyed “To the North” for its change of pace. Here we get an acoustic intro followed by a long Doom-laden movement which resolves back to acoustics, synth layering, and gorgeous lead work. Next on my list is “Underneath” again for the distinctive movements but also for the nasty, nasty groove. It’s the perfect mid-album hook. Finally, I found “Ending Path” reminiscent of KHEMMIS and since I love KHEMMIS that created a nice halo effect. Lots of Doom overtones coming through on this one.

Overall, “Following the Steps of Damnation” is an impressive album, and it establishes a firm foothold for this Northern Italian foursome. Cover art is by Juanjo Castellano who also treated their debut album. Like the music inside, the artwork draws you in and invites you to explore dark corners and foreboding pathways. Excellent album, this one. Highly recommended.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Steps of Damnation
2. Purgatory
3. Echoes of Time
4. Nightfall
5. To the North
6. Underneath
7. I Am the Night
8. Ending Path
9. Old Mother Frost
10. The Tower
Christoph Flarer – Drums
Florian Reiner – Guitars
Lukas Flarer – Vocals, guitars
Christoph Gufler – Bass
Record Label: Black Lion Records


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Edited 11 June 2023

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