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When Art was Merely a Twinkle in Ambitious Eyes - 70%

OlympicSharpshooter, May 30th, 2008

In the ‘80s ambitious thrash bands with a demo and a dream were a dime a dozen (asinine alliterative review authors came a bit later). I can’t claim to be an expert on the usual level of quality of these demos, as for the most part my interest begins and ends with the official releases, but I suspect Desacrator’s (misspelling intentional but inexplicable) debut demo had to have been well above average. It’s not so much anything new that they bring to the table compositionally, as this is very much in the ‘chops clinic w/ crazy riffs’ vein of late-period thrash songwriting, but there’s a freshness to their approach to these ideas that is seven kinds of welcome to these ‘tired of uninspired trad thrash’ ears. But it’s no surprise. After all, ‘inventive’ is one of those terms that occur over and over when people attempt the Herculean task of describing the band these guys eventually became: Thought Industry.

Although Metallica are definitely a touchstone, and indeed provided a surprising amount of direct assistance to this band of thrashers from the unlikely musical hotspot of Kalamazoo, MI, the band this actually sounds most like is early Flotsam & Jetsam. It’s seldom if ever been pointed out, but all of TI’s pre-Mods work borrows fairly heavily from Flotsam’s template, and it’s never clearer than here. Tracks like “The Lonely and the Damned” and “Genesis by Revelation” would fit in pretty well on Doomsday for the Deceiver, though already Desacrator are twisting their riffs in unexpected ways. They even have a few fairly long sections highlighting the bass guitar as Flotsam occasionally did, particularly in the fairly awesome “Electronic Apparition”. In general, there are far worse bands to nick a page from than Flotsam, and the sprawling anything-goes compositional style can do wonders for honing a band’s creativity. Unlike say, ‘prog-era’ Dark Angel, when Flotsam wrote a seven minute song with twenty riffs, they at least had the decency to make the riffs actually sound different from one another and Desacrator do the same.

Unfortunately, Desacrator also picked up a fistful of Flotsam’s worst tendencies. There are generic thrash ‘gang’ vocals all over the place, though it’s kind of funny to hear them chiming in at weird intervals because of all the odd time signatures, and they even cough up that most evergreen mouldy-cheese thrash cliché: the computerized ‘monster voice’ (think Megadeth’s “Five Magicks”). In addition, Brent Oberlin simply isn’t as technically accomplished a vocalist as Flotsam’s Eric A.K., and when he goes for the long sustained glory notes A.K. so serviceably handled, it’s simply embarrassing. I’ll wager he wishes he could go back and warn his younger self before he recorded “The Lonely and the Damned”.

But hey, even at this early stage the positives far outweigh the negatives. Both Dan Roe and Christopher “Lee” Simmonds are ace guitar players, and this is the only place where you really get to hear shredding on any TI-related project. Dustin Donaldson is already an extremely capable drummer and Oberlin remains one of the most technically proficient bassists in the history of thrash. So hell, it won’t change the world, but it’s still pretty fucking cool to hear these future art rockers bite down on the tinfoil and really rip it up. I mean, what can you say about “Malevolent Winds”? That’s just some extremely mean riffing right there.

And you can find the whole thing here, for free:
Leon’s Temple: http://leonstemple.com/desecrator.html (A great site where you can find a detailed history of this band, and a lot of cool music from the Kalamazoo, MI area)

Stand-Out Track: “Malevolent Winds”