After a four-year break, Dutch death/thrashers Legion of the Damned return with The Poison Chalice (Napalm Records), the band’s eighth full-length studio release their inception in 2005. Originally called Occult, only drummer Erik Fleuren and frontman Maurice Swinkel remain from that early incarnation spawned in 1992, the band never deviating far from their original sound, consistently honing their attack into an even more effective riff machine with each successive record.
This constant search for thrashing perfection means a notable first for the band, the former four-piece choosing to recruit a second guitarist to their ranks. Joining in 2020, The Poison Chalice marks the band’s debut with Disquiet axeman Fabian Verweij as the Dutch deathsters seek to refine their rampancy even further.
After lulling you into a false sense of security with its slightly distorted arpeggiated intro, it doesn’t take long for opener ‘Saints in Torment’ to explode into a blitz of riffs, shredding and tremolo picking, Swinkel ripping carelessly into his vocal cords like an enraged version of Destruction frontman, Schmier. ‘Contamination’ follows, and much like the mighty ‘Behold the Beyond’ a few tracks down the line, is absolutely certain to keep neck surgeons in work with its high-energy blast of groove and punishing intensity.
Reminiscent of song titles like ‘Aggressive Perfector’ and ‘Dissident Aggressor’, ‘Progressive Destructor’ appears to mean very little on paper but lets its old school influence and riffs do the talking instead, the cut ripping into some classic Cannibal Corpse low-end hammer-ons towards the end. ‘Skulls Adorn the Traitor’s Gate’ and ‘Retaliation’ are icy surges of blackened thrash infused with huge rhythmic slabs of metal riffery while classic thrash and early Metallica are splashed like blood over the whiplash-inducing ‘Savage Intent’.
‘Chimes of Flagellation’ finds Harold Gielen‘s bass work shining through the sledgehammer riffs while the simply outstanding ‘Beheading of the Godhead’ boasts a colossal main riff and a sweep-picking masterclass. A titanic beast bulging with Slayer riffs and unrestrained ferocity, the title track closes proceedings, bringing down not only the curtain but the rest of civilisation itself.
It bodes well for the future that Verweij and long-standing guitarist Twan van Geel make for such a great axe partnership. The pair deliver some of the most aggressive and rhythmically pummelling riffs in years, every song underpinned by some wonderfully dark melodies which give each composition extra weight and impact.
Doing exactly what is required with no filler and no disappointment, The Poison Chalice is another monstrous release from a band who never seem to be anything less than at the top of their game.
Buy the album here:
8 / 10