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Signs are all around that the end is near. Climate change is worsening, violence in America feels like it’s reached a crescendo, and then of course there’s the ultimate End Times harbinger: Donald Trump. So it’s as good a time as any for local doom metal outfit Dagger Moon to drop Citadel, it’s full-length debut album, which essentially plays like the soundtrack to the apocalypse.
Over the course of six heavy, stretched-out tracks, Dagger Moon breaches territories few metal bands ever have before, fusing its doom, crust, and death influences with prog-y horror film-esque synth riffs that would make John Carpenter proud.
Dagger Moon is no stranger to D.C.’s surprisingly buoyant metal scene. Some of its members have been kicking around for years in the crusty sludge-metal band Ilsa, and elements of that band certainly bleed into Dagger Moon, but its sound is entirely its own. Citadel begins with the lone guttural crunch of guitarist Joshua Bettell, before the whole band launches a one-two punch, accentuated by keyboardist Martina Pell’s sinister sounds. In fact, Pell proves to be something of an anchor for Dagger Moon’s distinct sound. Her riffs and tones add an extra sense of atmospheric doom to Citadel.
But with Dagger Moon, no one part is greater than the whole. Each element—Pell’s throwback keys; Bettell’s heavy, sweeping riffs; bassist Brendan Griffith’s dirty, rumbling bass; and drummer Mikey T’s splashy fills—combine to create something otherworldly and special.
And then there’s vocalist Chris Keller’s distant, primordial screams that sound as if they’re crossing over from a parallel dimension.
Listeners can barely make out Keller’s lyrics, but it doesn’t matter much because they’re not hard to guess. The band wears its dark and supernatural influences boldly on its sleeve. At least that much is apparent from Citadel’s song titles, like “Medusa,” “Black Water,” and the album’s epic, slow-building conclusion, “The Terror That Comes In the Night”—a reference to David J. Hufford’s classic 1989 study of violent assaults by supernatural entities.
With its shortest track coming in at just over six minutes, Citadel is an album full of careful pacing and deliberate moments. Like some of the best horror movies, it’s a slow-burner. Each track carefully builds to a startling climax, only to tear it all down and start again. That’s probably best exemplified on the album’s pinnacle, “Terminus Est,” a kind of dirge for the collapse of society. Because when The End comes, that’s how it’ll be: Not with a flash, but a slow crawl.