Martin Simson’s Destroyer of Death – “Eternal Reign”


Great metal can come from anyone. That sums up my experience with Martin Simson’s Destroyer of Death’s (ain’t that a mouthful!) “Eternal Reign.” The story sounds similar to another project I reviewed, but the results are quite different. Martin Simson is a heavy metal fan who decided in 2020 to take up playing bass and writing music. He attracted the attention of CJ Grimmark of Narnia fame who helped Martin make his written music into a recording. In 2021, DoD released two singles that attracted wider attention to this project, which led to recording a full length album. With label support from JONO Music, that full length album, “Eternal Reign,” was released in September of 2023.

Hats off to Martin for taking this project from zero to a full length album in three years, especially gathering an impressive retinue of musicians to make the recording. CJ Grimmark supports on guitar and keyboards which is pretty awesome, but also pulled in Rob Rock (Impellitteri, Solo) on vocals and Anders Kollersfor (Narnia, Allen/Olzon) on drums. Although “Master of All” got different treatment with Jørn Lande (Masterplan, Solo) on vocals and Anders Johansson (Narnia, Avatarium) on drums, the result was similar: professional grade, rock-solid heavy metal.

The album starts with “Holy Ground” which sets the stage. The song starts with bagpipes making me second guess if I put the right album on, but then it explodes into heavy guitar riffing and a characteristic high pitch from Rob. As the song moves along, the guitar work is always changing, keeping interest high even though this first verse goes on for a while. The vocal melody is somewhat repetitive for this first verse due to its length, but breaks out into a catchy chorus. Great hot guitar solo and a gear shift key change for the final chorus to add the extra bit of emotion into it, making for a great opening track.

So far so good, but I need to confess that I am not a fan of vibrato on vocals, particularly on the high notes that are common in heavy and power metal. Rob is a great singer and has good tone, but his high notes are a drawback for me. Thankfully, this is a minor issue on this release, but felt like I needed to get that off my chest. All right, moving on!

Many of the same themes from “Holy Ground” make every song on this album enjoyable: interesting heavy rhythm guitar work, melodic choruses and blazing solos. The title track is pretty good, showcasing a faster tempo and a galloping verse riff. “Master of All” is next and has Jørn on the mic. This was one of the singles in 2021, which might explain the different lineup than the others. The song starts with the same rhythm of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” but doesn’t continue in that vein, however still squarely 80s inspired heavy metal with synth support. I have a preference for Jørn’s voice as he has some more grit in his delivery making it more power metal vs. melodic metal. I really like the key change and the spacious texture in the solo section. It reminds me of progressive 70s rock songs, something unexpected compared to the beginning of the album.

On “Rapture,” Rex Carroll (White Cross) offers some solo and lead work on a hard rock song that starts off with clean guitar work, giving the first lighter touch on the album. “Never Surrender” is a solid heavy song with a catchy chorus that exhorts the listener to not give up on the faith in Jesus along with scriptural support. At this point, I notice that the guest musicians are not taking chances, but sticking within their wheelhouse to deliver a perfect performance. The end result is a no-frills, but high quality, heavy metal.

Then comes “Dragon Defeated,” my favorite on the album. The song starts in a space rock setting and makes use of an exotic mode. Heavy guitars come in emphasizing this harmony, which sounds slightly middle-eastern. The emphasizing synth work echos of Zepplin‘s Kashmir leading into a prechorus that is the height of the tension in the song. The solo section shifts into a more hopeful mode releasing tension built up over the song. Rob’s vocals do a great contrast between soft and powerful adding to a the dramatic character of the song. The lyrics emphasize that the devil is already defeated by the cross of Christ, making for a good meditative song on spiritual truth.

“War Within” takes on temptation as a subject. I really like the scriptural exhortation that we “resist the devil, and he will flee.” It is a strong heavy metal song with an interesting contrasting solo in the instrumental break. “Destroyer of Death,” another one of the lead off singles, is a praise song emphasizing how Christ has destroyed death. It is very hopeful and uplifting with a catchy chorus. The album closes with the hard rock track “Glory to the King,” which is a worship song. I particularly like the heavy riff underlying the solo. The song fashions itself very well as the album closer.

However, the last song is an additional version of “Master of All” that subtly differs from the other version. Its a good song, but does feel a little weird having almost the same exact song as the last track. If they did a techno-remix or something completely different, I would definitely understand having the second version.

I was bracing for disappointment, but was pleasantly surprised with what Martin pulled together here. I really like the scriptural lyrics that play in my head after listening through. Although the music side did not take any chances, this is a solid heavy metal album produced with some big names in Christian metal. The production hits the perfect balance of cleaning the sound while keeping a bit of the ragged metal edge to it. It will be interesting to see where Martin takes the project from here or if this is it. In any event, “Eternal Reign” is an enjoyable melodic heavy metal work that is definitely worth checking out.

Rating: 8.5/10

Written by Sean Bailey

1 – Holy Ground
2 – Eternal Reign
3 – Master of All
4 – Rapture
5 – Never Surrender
6 – Dragon Defeated
7 – War Within
8 – Destroyer of Death
9 – Glory to the King
10 – Master of All (Remixed)

Martin Simson’s Destroyer of Death is:
Martin Simson – bass
CJ Grimmark – guitars and keyboards
Rob Rock – vocals except on “Master of All”
Jørn Lande – vocals on “Master of All”
Anders Kollerfors – drums except on “Master of All”
Anders Johansson – drums on “Master of All”
Rex Carroll – guitar solos on “Rapture”

Release Date: September 29, 2023

Record Label: JONO Music

Social Media: Facebook | X (Twitter) | Spotify

Lyric Video for Never Surrender

Lyric video for Destroyer of All

Lyric video for Master of All

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