Reviewed: [September 2020]
Released [2020 Black Lion Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Sweden’s Desolator have been around for more than a decade, but to this point only have an EP and a nearly eight-year old full-length debut to show for their efforts. Yet these guys seem to be from the quality over quantity – or perhaps practice makes perfect – camp, and the their second album certainly benefits from that approach.
The band’s sound has morphed rather dramatically from the buzz-sawing, old-school Swedish death metal we’ve heard a thousands times or more before into something more expansive, progressive and imaginative. Sermon Of Apathy comes far more from the vein of Morbid Angel or Nile – perhaps fittingly, since Nile mainman Karl Sanders guests on the monumental closer “The Great Law of the Dead” – than early ’90s Entombed or Dismember. There still remains some raw, ragged edges in the production, but the songs are sophisticated and involved, offering less of a blunt object tone than before.
“Portal Tomb” sets the tone at the outset, melding crushing yet quite catchy riffs with abrupt time changes and haunting atmospheric sections that give the song drama and depth – even with the gnarly vocals that hark back to Nile with guitarists Stefan Nordström and Joakim Rudemyr and bassist Jonas Bergkvist all contributing. Their three-headed monster may be screechier and less guttural than Nile’s low-end behemoth, but it is imposing nonetheless. “Creatures of Habit” and “Methods of Self-Deception” follow-suit with similarly epic flair, adding harmonized leads and other subtle touches to the mix.
“Adversarial Doctrine,” Vaticide” and “The Human Condition” are a bit more compact, but at the same time more technically inclined, leaving out much of the dramatics in favor of complexity and aggression. The twisty-turny riffing, shape-shifting tempos and jarring contrasts, notably on the groove-and-sprint dynamics of “Vaticide,” make for a turbulent, yet exhilarating ride.
The spiraling, nearly nine-minute “The Great Law of the Dead” caps things in grand style. It’s serpentine guitars and chanting vocals offer the most overtly Nile-ish influence, and the solo contributions from Sanders and guest vocals from Phidion’s Oliver Palmquist to really pile on on the chants make for an emphatic, yet fitting touch. The the idol worship here is rather obvious, it’s still a pretty awesome song.
Sermon Of Apathy has the sound of a band finally finding its footing. And while it took a while to get here, Desolator have offered up and inspired, triumphant work that shows the time and effort were more than worth it.