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Label: Self released

Date: February 11th, 2023

It came from Malta this time. The suspicious looking package bearing what we thought was a blackened death metal CD by a band from a completely different part of Europe. Dumbfounded as we were, we soon found a way to shove the weird, unknown CD to the trustworthy me, so that I can dismantle its content, chew it up and spit it out for you to get acquainted with.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit for comical effect. The truth is we really didn’t see this one coming and, frankly speaking, after a short browse for the band online we felt like this is really not going to fit any of our individual tastes. My taste being the most extreme but at the same time most open to modern tendencies in metal (and music in general), the CD landed on my lap. Coincidence would have it, I’m writing this review on the very day when the CD is actually launched to the unsuspecting crowd. A mighty fine job at delivering it ahead of schedule for reviewing. Thanks guys!

Oh, and best of luck on the album launch show tonight! Though you will likely read this after the dust has settled at the venue.

Anyway, the first thing that really had me puzzled about the debut album by the Maltese five-piece (a six-piece now, but there were five plus a session bassist on the record) was the front cover. Without even yanking the digipack out of its wrapper, I thought of some surreal still life painting. Further thinking about it, later on, I grew more and more certain that the same painting is the perfect review of the sound emerging from “Life’s Grand Delusion”. Follow my train of thought.

The apple is clearly painted as freshly picked. Drops of water are a rather clear indication. With that, Mr. Julian Mallia, the man responsible for the artwork, likely depicted the fresh, modern take on music that Damaged & Co. adopted as their own. Then again, this sweet nectar hides within a hand grenade which goes to show the explosive nature which is in the core of the Maltese act. Their combination of nu metal, modern dark industrial and sweet why-do-they-even-still-call-it-death-metal sounds of nowadays In Flames, is just that. All it takes is a tender touch of emotional distress “Life’s Grand Delusion” is swarming with, as depicted by a butterfly landing on a safety pin, for the music to explode with uncontrollable energy.

On the other hand, there must be a different perspective to the same painting. One that takes into account the album’s title. The lyrics hold the answer to that question, dealing with topics of life drenched in misery and just gift-wrapped in fragile shiny wrapper. The damaged five pour out their hearts and souls onto the paper for Mr. Valletta to drain into the microphone. Okay, the damaged two, since Mr. Valletta along with the keyboard player Mr. Muscat are the two responsible for the words that adorn “Life’s Grand Delusion”.

What concerns the lyrics, they are really neatly formulated. They are neither simple nor overly complex to avoid detection of what the author had in mind while writing them. Therefore, Damaged & Co. have achieved the necessary level of connectivity with their fans or even casual listeners. Or your trusted reviewer in this particular case. These words, though I’m sure quite personal, are easy to identify with, as most of us has been through the same or similar issues, thoughts and feelings. The topics are universal and nowhere near something that will identify this band among many others. However, they do offer solid emotional support and a push forward to those in need.

Naturally, it would all be very much in vain had it not been for the musical background. Connecting the two, the vocals produced by Mr. Peter Paul Valletta are bringing the mandatory atmospheric tension. I am missing a bit more of a clarity in expression, since it is often hard to discern the words coming out of his mouth without the lyrics sheet. Still, he is convincing enough. I, for one, am able to believe he really feels the way he sings.

Remainder of instruments are, expectedly, performed to perfection and produced even better. The sound is filled to the brim, bass laden as it needs to be and energetic at the same time. Clean, but not plastic, keeping the sharpness needed for a good metal record.

Speaking of creativity and talent on display, in a radio-friendly genre such as this, the key notes are catchy songs that bear the potential to stick into people’s minds. In that regard, though Damaged & Co. are far away from putting out pieces that will one day be on a regular spin on “VH1 Classic” they are striving for it. And with some strength if you ask me.

Think of it this way. The latest Disturbed record has maybe one big hit plus a couple of cool songs, with the other half of the record being pure fillers. “Life’s Grand Delusion” has no massive hits, but it possesses at least eight real cool songs that will certainly be noticed whenever I play them. In other words, they will not make me want to play the album, but should I hear them somewhere, I will definitely enjoy them.

Hence, a solid outing for a debut full length, with much potential to turn into the first step on the thorny way to stardom. I’m definitely glad I grabbed the CD among the hungry beasts of Abaddon Magazine’s staff. There are a couple more spins of “Life’s Grand Delusion” ahead of me, so I’ll be leaving you to hunt the record down. Color me intrigued!

 

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