Damn Renegades – Excelsior | Progrunge Thrash Madfest
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based progressive grunge metal band Damn Renegades treat us to an exquisite and beefy aural meal. Damn Renegades with their Debut EP Excelsior lay down a riff-laden heavenly record. Formed in 2020, Damn Renegades have classic hard rock and punk in their genes. They treat us to this heavy madfest that is ensured to give a headbanging-induced neckache.
The band consists of Ryan Gattini on guitars, Dillon Finn on bass, and Vinnie Muckey on drums. Gattini and Finn both partake in lead vocal duties. You can hear a rich legacy of bare-bones Thin Lizzy, riffy Led Zeppelin, dark Alice In Chains, thrashy Metallica, with Mastodon and Smashing Pumpkins among their modern influences. In a little over 20 minutes, the power trio from Philly perfectly blends direct heavy rock/metal madness with the progressive timing and harmonic changes that any classic progger would approve of. The artwork on Excelsior depicts an apocalyptic scenario where we can see a city surrounded by a sinking desert, decrepit vehicles, and parasitic creatures which are the titles of this five-track EP.
The record opens with the punchy Blitzed which torpedoes us with its machine gun-like harmonic-laden guitar riffs. It’s a headbanging entry to the album, with powerful-sounding drums and a solid bass foundation. We get a blazing solo that sets fire and ends on a power chord progression. The sophomore track Silver Sinking Sand commences on a catchy guitar riff. The verses with the vocals give way to open-sounding, dense, and complete chords. The chorus guitar lines have some intricate guitar work. Mid-track we are treated with an eastern-infused solo and some harmonic variation.
Skinwalkers starts with some intense odd-timed riffs where the guitars, drums, and bass all work essentially in tandem. Around the two-minute mark, we hear a time signature change as the arrangement goes berserk and lands on a smooth progression. The smooth progression gives a stunning harmonic change mid-song. The song outros on some fast riffing and we resume back to the odd-timed intro riff. Red and Blue begins with some muted power riffing on the vocal verses and more tasty melodic phrases. The primary riff gives a precipitating impression. Just like what we’ve heard till now, we hear variations in song structure with the band not letting us keep our guard down, for good! Excelsior’s concluding track Parasite is a straightforward heavy punk rocker and as soon as the record ends, we wanna spin it again.
Gattini’s massive guitar tone from a Fender Telecaster entitled Redd Foreman is evidence to let go of short-minded notions on gear. Finn lays down the musical glue with his stunning basslines while Vinnie Muckey’s tight drumming maintains raw power while being in the pocket. Of course, no song works without even one element missing from it. The record is masterfully recorded and mixed at Studio North, Philadelphia by veteran Philly sound engineer Zach Brown. Brown brings his experience working with bands in the Philly music scene for years such as Johnny Football Hero, Molly Rhythm, Hot Brush, Ganto Barn, and the Zoomies. The production of the songs sounds full, filling the entire spectrum of the sonic range. The fundamental arrangements of the tracks using the classic power trio reinforce the importance of solid songwriting over fancy production.
Damn Renegades has some good variation in their song structures which keeps you engaged and waiting for what’s to come. The apt use of eastern modes, passages, and chord progressions is a nod to Megadeth and the innovation of heavy rock and metal. Skinwalkers and Red and Blue are the highlights of this stunning EP that is Excelsior. This is a record you’ll play on repeat and mosh to while reveling in the raw musical finesse.