Back in early ’93, I remember being in a Camelot Music record store, desperately scouring the scant rows in the hard rock/metal section of the store for some new death metal to add to my collection. I came upon a cassette from a band called Desultory, titled INTO ETERNITY. The logo looked pretty cool, the album cover was a simple, yet intriguing photo of clouds, and it was on Metal Blade Records – which at the time was generally a sign of quality goods. That album kicked my ass – traditional early ‘90s death with inflections of melody that would eventually become synonymous with the Gothenburg sound, and lyrics refreshingly free of gore and dismemberment. The album stayed well below the radar of many despite solid reviews, and was followed up by the equally well received but equally ignored BITTERNESS. 1996 saw the release of SWALLOW THE SNAKE, which was a gaffe of COLD LAKE proportions and eventually sounded the death knell for Desultory.
So after such an underappreciated existence and unceremonious exit, some were surprised when the band announced that they were resurfacing and beginning work on a new album, the now recently released COUNTING OUR SCARS. Apparently Desultory felt that there was some unfinished business to be resolved, as the band has once again kicked my ass. COUNTING OUR SCARS is the sound of a band with something to prove, and it succeeds. Desultory has found just the right balance between their old school roots and current-gen death metal for the nine punishing tracks on the album. It sounds like a simple recipe – mix the old with the new and voila, but it’s presented with a degree of matured execution that can only come with experience.
Opening with the “In a Cage,” the band lay it on the line from the get go. The track embodies everything that the album’s about – dark, heavy, melodic, emotive, and aggressive. It’s like if the 1993 version of Desultory were in an episode of Quantum Leap and ended up in 2011 with a mission to write the wrongs of today’s death metal. COUNTING OUR SCARS progresses at a consistent clip from track to track – it’s not a blitz, it’s a methodical pacing that allows you to absorb each song without sacrificing any momentum in between. The album repeats this formula for the duration, with standout cuts being the odious title track, the pit ready “Broken Halo,” the dirge laden melancholy of “This Moment is Gone” and gothic coda of “A Crippling Heritage.” Each track on the album retains a similar atmosphere of its neighbor, so there are areas where songs tend to blur, but the songs have enough unique qualities that they stand apart from one another.
Performance wise, the band hasn’t changed much in the way of strategy or execution. The riffs are still fast and chunky, and melodious, with just enough frill inserted where necessary. It’s a pretty straightforward affair that’s very reminiscent of their best stuff from back in the day, which I’d wager was exactly the intent on COUNTING OUR SCARS. The bottom line here is that a Desultory reunion was one that was unexpected, yet entirely validated with COUNTING OUR SCARS. It’s a heavy and powerful album that should merit Desultory a second lease on life. Hopefully Pulverized Records does the band justice and gets this album the promotion it so duly deserves. For what it’s worth, Pulverized has also re-released INTO ETERNITY and BITTERNESS with a ton of demo material from ’90-’91. Remastered by Dan Swanö, if you never heard these albums the first time, this is the time to do so. And oh yeah, go buy COUNTING OUR SCARS too, because it’s slays.
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