without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
With Robert Kampf leaving the band's affairs to focus on his fledgling Century Media Records, Despair acquired a new vocalist in Andreas Henschel, who was clearly a more practiced front man with a melodic tone capable of both aggressive thrash and flighty power metal, even going so far as to emulate James Rivera's Helstar howling on a number of the tracks here. The band also picked up a dedicated bass player in Klaus Pachura, and a more technical, melodic direction was initiated in the compositions. Decay of Humanity is mildly superior to the debut in many ways, but probably the most notable would be the production, which is glossy and clear throughout the entire album, letting the thin, labyrinthine processions of the guitars to truly shine.
It's best to think of this as tech power/thrash in the same school as Realm, Toxik, Watchtower and Mekong Delta, but Despair aren't necessarily as explosive or well thought out as any of those bands, and as such there are very few individual tracks that really engross me. However, the sophomore is extremely consistent, never slumping as it weaves through a metric fuck ton of guitar riffs, all delivered in a discourse of cerebral force that is rarely broken with a falsetto cry or surgical tech flurry. Tracks like "Cry for Liberty" and "Victims of Vanity" have their pure, thrashing moments, while Henschel soars across the crest, but I prefer the more progressive elements found in the shifting of "Radiated" and the epic crawling of "A Distant Territory", which segues into tasteful clean guitars and almost Ray Alder-like vocals between bouts of surgical momentum.
It's not quite as good as 1992's Beyond All Reason, but it definitely sets the stage for that career highlight, not to mention it's one of those rare albums which you can just sit straight through, 40 minutes of thought craft, decent lyrics and variation that should most appeal to the prog/thrash sect. Despair didn't exactly strike gold here, but the album is good enough that it should have brought them a little more attention, especially when you consider that their former singer was running their label. But in the end, the multitudes so rarely pay respect to anything that requires even a tint of ponderous observation, and smart and 'semi-smart' records like this wind up in the clutches of but a few open souls.
Best way to sum up this album is as follows: Thrash metal with different vocals and repetitive songs. Now, allow me to explain. Decay of Humanity is a heavy thrash album. It's unique style of fast riffs and drum beats accompany this. I would say Despair sounds similar to Anthrax, or at least close to that style of thrash metal. The music is very mixed up, and random musical things happen...well randomly. For example, the song A Distant Territory features a cool bass intro, but then the bass really is not featured in the rest of the album.
This act of randomness is definitely present in the vocals, which are very strange. On some songs he has a very deep vocal performance, similar to Testament (ex. Silent Screaming). Then on some songs the singer goes for a growling type death vocals, like on the song Decay of Humanity. Other times he gets really high and sounds like Kai Hansen, like on Cry For Liberty. It's like this guy could not make up his mind on how the vocals should be.
For the most part the riffs are very repetitive, which makes this album boring at parts. There are a couple riffs worth mentioning like the intro riff to Silent Screaming. Other than that the album blends together. There are some really good songs on this album, and if you listen to it a couple times in a row, or maybe once a day for a week this album might slide up in your top 30 thrash albums of all time. The difference in the song structure and singing does add a little flavor. All metal heads should at least check this one out, but it's definitely not worth spending a whole lot of money to get.
I think they're trying to go for the technical/melodic sound here, because at times they're sounding a wee bit like middle-era Death, with both the good and bad points of that band. Of course, the vocalist isn't nearly as Chuck, but the use of slightly offbeat song structures with lots of changes, while the tempo stays mostly the same reminds me of ITP.
That said, this is a far thrashier album - in fact, it falls squarely into the thrash genre, and the real closest comparison I can make is the more obscure bands Flaming Anger (Germany, 80s) and Wartime (Bulgaria, 00s), except both of those are more interesting.
Therein lies the problem with this album. It's boring. All the songs run together. There's a few cute moments here and there like the melodic guitar solo sequence in Victims of Vanity, to name one example, but in general... ehhh... there's really not much here. Sometimes they try too hard, throwing in for example an acoustic break in A Distant Territory. But while ambitious in the use of random ideas, it doesn't work on an actual songwriting level. Again, the whole thing is pretty much one speed, and that speed is blah. This lacks the absolute chaos of Watchtower, the riff nightmare of Time Does not Heal, or the death-metal sensibility of Atheist or even middle-Death...
It's worth maybe one or two listens, but after that it is completely expendable.