Tomorrow, cult US death metal label Abyss Records releases the debut full-length from Swedish progressive death metal duo Desultor. After two successful demos the band have finally brought their unique progressive death metal sound to a full length album, Masters of Hate.
Masters of Hate has to be one of the most interesting releases I’ve heard in a few months, and definitely a surprise given the description I was given by the label. I was expecting the usual death metal sound – gruff, deep vocals, neck-breaking riffs, pummelling drums … and a “nod” to a little interesting composition that seems to categorize most “progressive” death metal bands. But this isn’t Desultor’s sound at all.
A slow, haunting intro leaves no clue to what awaits you. But in the first few seconds of “Black Monday” you realize you’re not listening to a typical technical death metal record. The song explodes the intensity, and you’re waiting from those deep, brutal vocals to come in and drag you down into headbanging heaven, and what you get instead is a switch to heavy thrash riffs and these clean, high vocals scream at you. I admit, I dropped the sandwich I was eating and went “What?” But you know how it goes with music – a band can get away with anything if they a) label it progressive and b) do it well. And Desultor have done both these things.
There are only two musicians in this band, and from the intensity of sound that spews forth from their instruments, we’re probably safer for it. Michael Ibrahim’s drums stand out immediately – he’s lightening fast on his double kick, and he knows just when to pull back and let the riffs do the talking, and come forward with some intense blastbeats or interesting fills. Markus Joha on vocals and guitars does a fantastic job of both reassuring the listener that they’re definitely listening to death metal and completely warping perceptions of what makes death metal … deathy. The high, progressive vocals are a shock that many might get over, but once you recover, you realise the dude can really fucking sing. And scream. And the intense riffs straight out of your favorite death metal releases, mixed with slower, melodic passages and riffage inspired by thrash and a smidgeon of Euro power metal (the smidgeon without the dragons or falsetto) come together to give a unique, boundary-pushing record that really can be called progressive metal.
Although I can’t identify a bad track on this album, standouts for me were “Black Monday”, the brutally brilliant “Another World”. I loved the vocal interest and riff composition in “And So We Bleed” and the riffs and little ambient distraction in “The Luxury of Pain”. Normally, I’d be skeptical over a band’s ability to bring together such diverse elements into one album, but Joha and Ibrahim gel musically on such a deep level that this album is a stunning success. If this is their debut, then what are Desultor going to treat us to on their follow-up?