Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Get Into: Desaster
When I hear about a band from a friend or a reviewer I usually check out their earliest albums first, but I got into Desaster "backwards" because I found them by following random Youtube links until I got to a cool track. They released their first demo in 1993, during black metal's proud and bloody iron age, but what I'm really stoked on at the moment is their 2005 album Angelwhore.
I suppose Desaster are a black/thrash band, but that label means almost nothing. It'd probably be more accurate to say that they use thrash techniques to write songs with a black metal feel. As their name suggests, Desaster are doggedly devoted to the elder gods of Teutonic thrash, but Angelwhore is really cool because it's not some Hell's Headbanger's-esque attempt to recreate that exact sound. It's actually shockingly contemporary. While another veteran band might well have played up their scene cred and churned out increasingly stale re-iterations of their early albums, Desaster remained completely current with developments in metal throughout the 90s and early 2000s.
Angelwhore is full of ripping thrash, but it also features bombastic blasting in the manner of later Marduk and Destroyer 666, and highly developed chug riffing ala Amon Amarth and At The Gates. Luckily, we're not dealing with some haphazard, cut-and-paste effort to sex up oldschool thrash with touches of war metal and Gothenburg death. Rather, Desaster work towards their non-80s influences from within their natural framework of speedy, consonant thrash metal. They bring out the underlying thrashiness in these later subgenres, emphasizing their common descent from the rarefied shred of Destruction and the grinding onslaught of Kreator. Everything about Desaster's sound is natural. When I heard the melodeath riff that drops at 1:21 in the song I posted above, I wasn't like "Ew! A melodeath riff, how tasteless!" Instead, my reaction was more along the lines of "Sick! That's how these riffs should always have sounded!" Between their clever songwriting and their embrace of crunchy modern production, Desaster have found a way to thrash out without sounding like historical reenactors.
But wait, we haven't even talked about the vocals yet! Black/thrash is cluttered with vocalists doing generic black metal screams and rote Tom G. Warrior impersonations, thinking that simply because they're using extreme styles the music automatically becomes "more extreme than normal thrash," or whatever. That's a bunch of bullshit--they usually sound so standard that they don’t even figure in my experience of the music.
Desaster’s vocalist, Sataniac, is not one of these guys. In fact, I’m not sure what kind of guy he is because he sounds like no one else I’ve ever heard. All I can say is that he's aptly named. Instead of screaming or rasping he roars. His general approach is kind of like metallic hardcore, but with black metal’s inhuman wrath. With his sheer batshit insanity and his penchant for using effects, he kinda reminds me of Sakevi’s G.I.S.M. Rather than just "doing vocals," he's a real vocal performer, delivering his lines with variation and real emotion. At 5:21 in “The Blessed Pestilence” he just fucking goes for it, revving himself up from bestial wretching into mad laughter before calling out in triumph as the blastbeats return. I can see this kind of thing making a lot of people uncomfortable, whether because they're anxious hipsters who think it's "ridiculous" or uptight nerds who think it's "not how thrash vocals should sound," but these people should go get fucked.
By combining rabid aggression with modern production and really catchy melodies, Desaster have created the ultimate "little brother" album. That's not meant to be patronizing at all. It's not an album your ignorant little brother might listen to, it's an album that you should GIVE to your little brother, or any friend who's just beginning to explore the outer fringes of extreme metal. Angelwhore will be his gateway into the hard shit. And if he can't dig Desaster, tell him to look into Animal Collective.