Friday, June 28, 2013
Desolator - Unearthly Monument 
Sweden's Desolator is nothing but a fresh addition to the tirelessly growing old school Swedish death metal compendium, and yet, despite being highly aware of this fact, for some reason I found myself pursuing their debut full-length which much greater avidity than I would have imagined. The cover art might have been a factor in inducing my boner-of-metal here; a generic yet entertaining caricature depicting a gigantic, ghoulish skull trapped between the two contours of an archaic crypt entrance of some sort, the huge, heaving mass slowly sinking into a morass of blood. Although I'm certain recurring listens of the promo song ''Gravefeast'' that the band uploaded prior to the album's release also had an impact on my increasing anticipation. Needless to say, Desolator's origins are overly blatant - they use up the most popular aesthetics of the classic Swedeath sound - though I was surprised to hear that their simple trajectory was adorned with sprinklings of spurious thrashy fun, making for a listen only marginally disparate than its peers such as Miasmal, Tormented, or Entrails, but still relatively entertaining and rarely memorable.
Listeners will probably sense the great irony in the album's title right away. ''Unearthly Monument'' is actually a pillar built with copious candor and unabashed dexterity, displaying an absolutely earthen sound to say the least. This is not to say that they've gone completely soft with their tone and influential representations, but the guitar raunchy, crunchy miasma has been replaced by a simpler, and still quite primordial aesthetic. The album is a barrage of fluent tremolos interwoven with simple chord ruptures that flow in a fairly simple manner, often resembling some of the less abusive death metal acts of the early 90's like Bolt Thrower, or sometimes even the more narrow-minded and straightforward death/thrash acts of the 1988-1992 time period, a pulsating stream of gore and muscular incursions similar to that of Epidemic, Solstice or the Slovakian rarity Gladiator. There was also a number of creeping riffs that resembled Autopsy's ''Severed Survival'', but for the most part, the album makes it clear that it does not have any underlying messages, but a brutal set of seasoned, crazed death metal riffing fit for purists. The band's broad pattern of riffing and rudimentary interpretations will undoubtedly earn them an audience of old, but folks who are looking for innovation won't find anything particularly entrancing here, I'm afraid.
Thankfully, most of tracks are kept nice and short, and with a certain amount of devotion concerning the individual riffs, not to mention the way the guitar has been smoothly fleshed out of the other instruments, you're not bound for another mundane cavern hike where the swooshing guitars swirls with the rest of the murky instruments, making an incomplete and irrelevant mess. I love the honesty of the production, especially that of the guitars and drums, the former being, as I mentioned, plain and bare, like the tones of Cancer and Obituary during their less refined days, and the latter having a sharp, crispy and spiky tone that renders it discernible from the rest of the mix. My favorite track here was ''Bludgeoned, Beaten And Berated'', which name-wise resembles Cancer's ''Hung, Drawn and Quartered'', and Cannibal Corpse's ''Striped, Raped and Strangled'', plus a few more gory pieces of the death metal universe, and it perfectly lives up to its name, smothering the listener with a bombard of chugging death/thrash excursions, followed by a tempest of tremolos. The vocals are hardly a novelty, your basic low guttural growls that echo with ferocity, as are the leads, which are a collection of sly little solos randomly dispersed across the album. Indeed, ''Unearthly Monument'' is nothing much more than a loyal homage to the death metal gods themselves, but despite its simplicity, it has the potential to bludgeon the fuck out of any listener, voluntary or involuntary, and is a pretty good improvement from their earlier composite of demos and splits. Old school purists need only apply to feel the booming, rancid bliss.
Bludgeoned, Beaten and Berated
Mass Human Pyre