Because we, as consumers, love to put everything into neat little descriptive boxes it often throws us off kilter when an album is released that can’t be neatly categorised. And “Sons of Asena”, by Australian metal royalty Double Dragon – named after the 80’s beat-‘em-up video game – is one such album.
It isn’t because the band are quirky, overly experimental or trying to be different in a contrived way, because on the surface of it the band play a tight, polished brand of melodic death metal that’ll appeal to fans of At The Gates or Carcass. But listen carefully and you’ll be able to hear other influences creeping in, most notably a big dose of 80’s thrash and hardcore, that although not particularly unique in itself, does play out in a way that marks the band out as somebody to keep an eye – or ear – on.
Pretty much balls-out from start to finish there isn’t really a duff track here, but songs like the swaggering ‘Cut the Cord’ and The Haunted-esque “Transfusion” manage to rise above due to simple songwriting played with masses of confidence. Other tracks like the opening “Malediction” have a more complex structure without ever being complicated, and quite often career off into unexpected areas. “Blood” typifies this by cramming in blastbeats and Biohazard-style monster grooves along with a thrash metal vibe that harks back to the heavier bands of the genre, like Kreator, Exodus and Testament.
“The Lone Wolf” stands out as one of the strongest tracks, starting off as a 90’s Metallica-style power ballad and building up and up, finally culminating in a Pantera/Machine Head groove metal crescendo, both brooding and heavy. Throughout the album singer Lee Gardiner’s vocals range somewhere between George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher’s guttural bellow and Lou Koller’s gargling-with-glass howl, but on this track he proves he really has a good, clean singing voice as well.
Reminiscent of Machine Head’s “Burn My Eyes” in the way that it uses its influences without ever wholly giving in to one of them, “Sons of Asena” is a solid example of sonic greatness. Covering the whole spectrum of extreme metal styles but still sounding like the same band throughout, Double Dragon have nailed a style that immediately sounds familiar yet fresh. Each listen brings out something new that you missed the last time, which means that this is an album that’ll keep on being interesting and will hopefully still be on people’s minds when the end of year lists are put together.