Riley McShane: Vocals
Greg Burgess: Guitar
Michael Stancel: Guitar
Brandon Michael: Bass
Jeff Saltzman: Drums
Over the past fifteen years, Colorado's Allegaeon have built themselves a unique place in the musical landscape, forcing both technicality and melody to the forefront as they create tumultuous and riveting death metal. With DAMNUM, their sixth full-length, they push everything further into the extreme, and in the process deliver the definitive Allegaeon record, which while forging into new territory, takes everything compelling about the band and enhances it. "With this album, it was more about knowing what we didn't want," states vocalist Riley McShane. "We didn't want to keep knocking on the same creative door that wasn't ever getting opened. We didn't want to force ourselves to stay in a box that had been built for ourselves over the years." Involving all five members in the writing process for the first time ever also helped open up their perspectives, to the betterment of the music. "With all that in mind, it gave us a new creative landscape to hold vantage over, and really let us run down paths that each of us had carved out for ourselves. Bringing that together was also a huge process for us, but I think going through it together had a significant impact on the resulting album."
Helping to bring the record to life is new drummer Jeff Saltzman, who previously played with McShane in Continuum. "He practices all the time and truly loves it," says guitarist Greg Burgess. "With that passion comes a creativity we really haven't had before. This is really the first record where the drummer has written all their parts, instead of us guitar players programming a beat and having our drummer just write their fills," and adds McShane, "pairing him with our bass player Brandon Michael, we have a rhythm section that can keep up with the level of musicality and proficiency the guitars have always brought to the table." One of the most striking facets of DAMNUM is how melodic it is, shot through with soaring choruses and virulent hooks, these jump out on first listen, but at the same time, it also contains some of the most intense, violent music of their career, most notably in the case of "Of Beasts And Worms". "There was a lot of anger and sadness present when writing this record," says McShane. "Not with each other, but just as a byproduct of the shape of things in the world around us, as well as some hard-hitting losses in our individual lives. We all experienced something over these past couple of years that took a lot out of us emotionally, and as musicians, we tend to turn to our art to process those emotions. I'm personally very grateful to have had Allegaeon and 'DAMNUM' as that outlet while all those things were happening in my life - I can't imagine how else I would have coped without them."
The title DAMNUM is Latin for 'loss', which fits many of the lyrical themes explored on the album. "The band experienced a lot of death within our personal lives, and it colored the album," explains Burgess. "If you look up DAMNUM in the dictionary, it's most used in legal terms for loss of property, but that's a modern interpretation. The collaborative nature between five guys made creative decisions very difficult, however I think this title when we mentioned it immediately got the attention of everyone in the group. I think it's perfect for the album." For McShane, centering his lyrics on processing sadness, anger, grief, and loneliness, his intention is that some people might take solace in the words and use them as a resource to cope with their own experiences. "My hope with these lyrics is to have them be relatable to listeners and show them that they're not alone when they're experiencing the gamut of negative emotions - someone else is out there feeling the same way." Exploring a variety of themes within this remit, on the track "Called Home" he looks to the suicide of a close personal friend, as well as a similar incident experienced by Burgess around the same time, the title taken from the note left behind by the friend of the latter. "This song was written in their memory, as well as to help us find closure in their loss," says McShane. "Some of the lyrics are taken directly from the notes left behind by these friends, as well as from pieces of literature that held significance in our friendships. Mostly though, this song is an expression of grief, anger, and the overwhelming sadness that found us in the wake of their disappearance from this world." Closer "Only Loss" is particularly bleak, though McShane hopes that listeners can still draw something positive from it. "This song is about coming to terms with the fact that sometimes life can be challenging and it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Throughout the album, there are many metaphors for mental health and again, my hope is that they can provide something for listeners to use to cope while having similar experiences. This song, however bleak, represents an idea that I hope provides clarity through the thought that once you realize these bad things in life never go away, you can begin working on how to process them as they arise."
Dave Otero, who has produced everything except the band's 2012 album Formshifter, once again joined the band in Flatline Audio studio, Burgess asserting that working with him is "always easy and a blast." However, both Burgess and McShane concede that the more collaborative nature of the record - and for the first time all members being present in the studio for the entire duration of tracking - led to the passionate butting of heads on occasion. "There was a lot more creative input coming from all directions on every song, and while it was stressful at times to sort through the noise of everyone's ideas, I think it ultimately added something wholly unique to this album in comparison to any other in the Allegaeon catalog." For Burgess, this compromise was the hardest aspect of recording, "for a long time it had been less of a collaborative effort on the whole band's part and for this album it was the first time all five members contributed creatively. It was tough getting used to doing things this way but, in the end, sometimes change is necessary for growth," while for McShane it was more psychological and emotional angst that posed the biggest obstacle. "For me, this album was very cathartic, but also very difficult to write and record. I chose to access a part of my mind and my heart that I often keep closed off to myself and to others. Facing some things about my experiences in life and in music over the past few years brought me to a few very intense moments of reflection and emotional overload and getting through those moments was often much harder than anticipated." Still, with the record now fully realized, the band are looking toward the future, and focusing on all that brings. "I see more and more opportunity for growth as a band and as individuals with every album we release," says McShane. "With this new album we have taken what we learned from the 'Apoptosis' (2019) album cycle and run with it. During that time we had to focus so much of our efforts on endeavors outside of creating music that we didn't have as much time as we wanted to really dial in the creative process. With this new album, we have taken what we learned from that cycle and are running with it into every new day that gives us the chance to learn about ourselves, our band, and our music."