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By definition “Desiderium” is what one would consider a “bedroom black metal” band although I hope they become recognized as something much more than that. Desiderium are loaded with the “post rock” style melodies that have been taking over black metal as of late and transforming “black metal” into something new entirely. The bands that Desiderium remind me of most strongly are Agalloch and Alcest. With those two comparisons in mind you already know whether or not you like this band.
This album starts off with an obnoxiously long piano intro that reminds me a little too much of Burzum’s “Han Som Reiste” with the constant stream of quarter notes. This intro then flows into the song “Forest of Forgotten Memories” which also has an intro rendering the first song rather pointless in my opinion. This is a minor problem because a person can easily skip the first song and be left with a brilliant 5 song album.
What sets this band apart from other Starbucks drinking hipster black metal acts is the progressive metal influence. The song “Pale Cloak of Dawn” is a prime example of this. About half way through the song everything stops except the bass (did I mention you can hear the bass) and a jazzy melody comes in that wouldn't be out of place on a Cynic album. There are a lot of different ideas presented on this release and there are always lots of things going on musically but at no point does it ever feel cluttered or “over the top.”
The guitar work is very good; there are excellent solos and melodies over most of the riffs. It would seem that Phillip is a very proficient guitarist as he demonstrates tremendous amounts of talent in his guitar work. The vocals are excellent, I can literally understand every word Michael says without having to strain my ears. There are two styles of vocals present; a harsh rasp (closely resembling Agalloch) and a strong powerful clean delivery. The clean vocals are very strong but only show up in the last two songs for brief moments. I would have liked to hear more clean vocals on this release, hopefully there will be more on future releases. The drums are programmed very well and do not distract from the music in any way shape or form. There is a heavy synth presence which adds depth and character to the album without distracting from the guitars.
My personal favorite track would have to be the last one “The Passing of Life from Troubled Eyes.” This is the most varied song on the album by far, it has clean vocals in the chorus and the rest of the song seamlessly flows from slow hypnotic doom metal to blistering fast black metal with tremolo riffs and blast-beats. This song finishes off the album with a somber sounding symphonic part that sounds about 100 times cooler than the intro. If you are a fan of “shoe-gaze/post rock” influenced black metal I recommend you download this ASAP! If you are looking for “blastbeats of blasphemy” drenched in “hate static” you WILL be disappointed.
Take two of the most successful names in atmospheric black metal (Agalloch and Borknagar) and meld them together in a unique fusion. That’s an introduction to Desiderium, a US two-man project of Michael Rumple, vocalist of Acrasia, and guest Philip Wentworth as guitarist/bassist. Those familiar with Acrasia’s prog metal tendencies, however, should put aside any idea of similarity, and instead enjoy what unfolds.
Musically speaking, the programmed drums are quite tasteful and varied, bearing in mind that neither Rumple nor Wentworth are drummers. From the raw approach to “And Her Cries Echoed Across The Hills” to the doom feel of closer “The Passing Of Life From Troubled Eyes”, the distorted guitars are not overpowering but still make themselves felt, and the tone on the solos is beautiful. The bass is unfortunately absent for the most part aside from “Pale Cloak Of Dawn”, and in my opinion a larger bass role would have made this a perfect release, but the other instruments and choral sections more than make up for it.
The listener is greeted with a piano- and synth-based “intro” of five minutes, a collaboration of bandmate Zach Dresher and experimental artist Will Mygatt, a calming atmospheric piece that also provides a neat segue. Each of the songs have their own feel about them; Rumple makes his love of Pale Folklore-era Agalloch well-known in the melodies, but there are also hints of aforementioned Borknagar along with Swallow The Sun and an orchestral ending to the album. There is definitely a lot of variety that has gone into this album, including some Arcturus-style cleans, a brilliantly executed acoustic section, and some space-y synthesizer effects, all on different songs.
The vocals were the biggest surprise here due to Rumple’s usual lower growling approach in Acrasia. Instead, he goes for an easily-comprehensible rasp not unlike Haughm’s (Agalloch) and some unproduced cleans on the last two tracks. His lyrical style is more honest and direct than many black metal bands, with such lines as “What men walked this path before I?/These memories are all forgotten/In one hundred years, so am I”. Granted, not as eloquent as some, but his narrative style of delivery in a slower post-metal fashion adds another dimension, and unites them well with the music.
Flaws are naturally present in this release, including the mentioned lack of bass, as well as the cleans which could have been softened with a little production. The influence of Agalloch is quite prominent, so anybody who seeks originality in music may be cautious in approach. Finally, the piano section in “Forest Of Forgotten Memories” feels slightly forced rather than natural in progression, but that’s a minor detail rather than a major bone to pick.
All in all, this was a pleasant surprise to receive, and certainly an album to which I can return often and fully enjoy. Also, it introduced me to Borknagar, whom I had not tried prior to this release, and re-affirmed my love of older Agalloch. Definitely worth checking out if you like either of the two, or have any interest in atmospheric black metal.
Originally written for www.blackwindmetal.com
Although black metal as a genre has been around since bands like Bathory, Hellhammer, and Venom defined the sound in the 80's, black metal hasn't ceased to evolve and change through the years. The later years of black metal have seen a focus on atmosphere come to the fore, which may be new to some even though the mix of black metal and ambiance has gone hand in hand almost since the beginning.
Desiderium is such a band. Instead of focusing on blasts or simplistic song structure like a great deal of other black metal bands do, this American duo consisting of Michael Rumple (the main composer) and Philip Wentworth (also of the band Thomas Taylor) centers around complex and intricate song structures with many different elements and parts all woven magnificently together to form this 6-track full-length album of impressive atmospheric black metal. While most black metal bands lean towards a very harsh sound with furiously simplistic guitar riffs, Desiderium lean more in the opposite direction with their more intricate and melodic approach to this old genre. In general, their lengthy songs are all filled to the brim with incredible atmosphere comprising of a nice mix of instrumentation, lengthy instrumental parts, and sophisticated and unusual song structures with a multitude of melodic riffs.
While the production sounds incredible and well-balanced compared to much black metal, the same cannot be said for the vocals. The vocals are good and articulate, but they have a tendency to feel somewhat out of place among the myriad of other elements and I think some more processing of the vocals would do much for the overall audible expression of "An Image of Solitude". I have mixed feelings about the drums. Part of me says they're uninspired and bland, but another part of me says they're fitting to the music and the very nice guitar work. I'll let this speak for itself, and simply conclude that more intricate drumwork could be both good and bad.
"An Image of Solitude" is an album that features great amounts of variation and six tracks that flow along like a nearly frozen river in a desolate and far away landscape. To me, it is imperative that the entire album has good flow, and this album really accomplishes this criteria. This album is best enjoyed through a pair of high quality headphones as this allows you to fully appreciate all the tiny details.
"An Image of Solitude" stands as a monument to the majesty of modern melodic and atmospheric black metal, and this album is exactly what its title indicates: a musical picture of solitude. Many will find that it doesn't quite click with the first few listens, but this album becomes better with each listen.
With a total length of 45 minutes and 27 seconds of pure atmospheric black metal this 6-track album can proudly boast 70%.
Originally written for www.gouls-crypt.blogspot.com
Desiderium is a two-man black metal project. However, unlike the droves of atrocious bedroom black metal polluting the world today, Desiderium’s material is well thought out, well written and enjoyable to listen to. Desiderium plays a symphonic, often progressive breed of black metal that reminds me specifically of Agalloch and later Immortal.
The album starts with an ambient synth intro which at just under five minutes stretches far beyond what it should have. However, when the first song “Forest of Forgotten Memories” starts the album takes off in a big way. The song is full of sorrowful melodies and layers of guitars and synths. The meandering song structure of this and all songs on the album contain doomy plodding parts, blasty intense sections and beautiful synth breaks and guitar solos.
The guitar work on this release is truly fantastic. As much as I love ceaseless tremolo picked droning for an entire album, it’s great to hear some actual riffs on an underground black metal release! The soloing is not only competent, which in itself would be a blessing, but is really top notch stuff including great phrasing on the melodic parts and bouts of shredding used tastefully throughout, especially in the track “Pale Cloak of Dawn”. The synth work serves to add both melody and texture to the release without ever feeling overpowering or over the top cheesy. The synth often backs the guitars or playing counterpoint melodies for some great entwined, dense pieces of music.
The harsh vocals are a competent, if somewhat monotone midrange gargle. They fit the music well enough but are underwhelming compared to the great music and don’t sit very comfortably in the mix. The clean vocals that pop up on the last two songs “Waldeinsamkeit” and “The Passing of Life From Troubled Eyes” are fantastic and I would have liked to hear them utilized more in the other songs. Lyrically the album focuses on mountains, forests, ravens etc., well written, sorrowful but never melodramatic. Another plus for this album is the competence of the drum programming. The drums are composed well, never monotonous and never draw attention to their synthetic nature. The mix and production are also far beyond your usual black metal project, clean clear and balanced without sounding overproduced.
While this album is mostly a winner, the songs can get a bit too meandering with not enough focus, and not every song had to be in the seven to nine minute range. While the melodies and riffs are great, they can start to sound a bit samey near the end of the album. It took me quite a few listens to fully appreciate everything and before anything jumped out as being super memorable, but I certainly didn’t mind listening over and over again! If a bit more focus and tight in the song writing, this could have been amazing. As it is, it’s still really good progressive black metal.
(Originally written for http://abloodredpath.blogspot.com/)