If you play melodic death metal and your lyrics are about Vikings, comparisons to Amon Amarth are inevitable. Many bands are influenced by Amon Amarth to be sure, and for good reasons. However, in the case of Dagaz’s first full length, From Ancient Wisdom, being influenced by occasionally gives way to borderline plagiarism.
Musically, the most accurate description of this Quebec group’s debut is that it sounds like a combination of parts of all of Amon Amarth’s albums, with perhaps a bit more melody. Thodrekr Krighammer’s vocals sound remarkably like Johan Hegg’s distinctive roar, and he also makes use of an occasional blackened rasp. Like Amon Amarth, Dagaz makes use of two guitarists to create powerful, memorable riffs which also contain a fair amount of melody and are quite exceptional on tracks like “From Ancient Wisdom” and “The Great Dawn”. Solos are common and are thoughtfully placed as to make them most effective. The drummer hammers throughout the album and gives a convincing performance with a number of fills to keep things interesting without going overboard and becoming distracting.
Much of the album is mid-paced, but slower songs like “Last Stand of the Hard-Ruler” as well as breaks between songs and some faster songs like “The Bane of Giants” keep things from getting monotonous. The production is great and all instruments can be heard without getting into ‘too polished’ territory. The song structures aren’t particularly innovative and indeed nothing but one part of the album, a part of the song “From Ancient Wisdom”, surprised me. That’s not exactly a bad thing though; better to remain grounded in tradition than to attempt to forage a new path and fail miserably. The part that did surprise me though was my favorite part of the album. Towards the end of “From Ancient Wisdom”, a breakdown begins with a great and audible bass line, as well as a solo soaring over the crushing guitars down below. Ordinarily I’m not a fan of breakdowns at all but this one just crushes.
I’ve talked a decent amount of what I liked about From Ancient Wisdom, but as you can see from the score I’ve given it, the album has a few flaws. I mentioned earlier that the album contains what I’d consider borderline plagiarism. There were a few times during the album where I found myself thinking, “Where have I heard this before?” Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t take points off for lack of originality, but the song “Riding ‘Til the End” sounds so similar to Amon Amarth’s song “Varyags of Miklagaard” that I felt I had to dock a few. Additionally, there are a few songs that are weaker than the others on the album that failed to hold my attention completely.
So, what can you expect from Dagaz’s From Ancient Wisdom? Well, quite a bit as it turns out. Each member of the band performs with enthusiasm and a degree of skill that is uncommon in a band’s first album, and if some fantastic, Amon Amarth sounding melodic death metal sounds like something you’d enjoy you’ll surely like From Ancient Wisdom. I’m quite impressed with this release and although it’s not the most original album ever, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen and headbang to, and I’m looking forward to what these Canadians put out next.