Album Review: DESULTORY Through Aching Aeons
In what’s become a common theme in my last handful of reviews for the wonderous world of Metal Injection, Sweden’s Desultory is another band I have vivid recollections of spending many lonely, sexless nights with during the barren early ‘90s before losing track of them. In the case of these death thrashers from Stockholm, it wasn’t so much that I lost track of them as much as they lost me after their 1996 album, Swallow the Snake. And even then, it wasn’t because that album saw them eschewing many of their Scandinavian death metal roots for the sort of southern stoner rock Corrosion of Conformity was doing from Blind onwards. Nah, it was because they broke up soon afterwards. Dissolving into thin air will do that to one’s profile. However, the band has apparently been back since 2009 and Through Aching Aeons is their second release since their return. Who knew? I sure as hell didn’t.
Through Aching Aeons has Desultory returning – again, I haven’t listened to 2010’s Counting Our Scars to compare – to the style and approach of their first two highly respected, though largely unheralded, records: 1993’s Into Eternity and Bitterness, released a year later. Back in that day, as death metal and the pockets of noise that coalesced around various regional locales like Tampa, Stockholm, Montreal and the English Midlands came to greater prominence, and thrashers grew increasingly tired of their heroes chasing success with ballads and white-boy funk, those early Desultory records whittled away at the chasm between the two subgenres. Possessing distinctive elements of both subgenres, the band found themselves falling somewhere between the harder approach of German and New York thrash, the ubiquitous sound of early Morbid Angel and that which was made popular by their fellow countrymen. Where the band is coming from now is where they started off, albeit with years of experience and the restlessness of rejuvenation working in their favour.
Starting off with the shifty, side-winding staccato riff of “Silent Rapture,” Through Aching Aeons presents as a band that has been let loose after being restrained by a double-reinforced straight jacket; the uncoiling is quick, strikes hard and cuts deep, especially the way the rhythmic punches lock into drummer Thomas Johnson’s kick patterns. The material may not be oppressively crushing or bowel rumbling heavy, but the lithe and lean sleekness Desultory pounce with is incisive and fierce. Their brand of heaviness is insidious; “In This Embrace” ignites with almost (older) Cynic-level technicality, a flurry of riffs that jump all around the fretboard and tempo charts with protruding shots of bass a la Cryptopsy and the surprising well-formed phrasing of guitarist/vocalist Klas Morberg’s scathing growl basting together what could have crumbled into a dizzying mess in other hands. “Breathe the Bleeding Sky” may have a completely unnecessary acoustic closing section, but the rest of it masterfully weaves a layer of modal melodies over the sort of riff that At the Gates has been trying to write for years. “Divine Blindness” marries rapid-fire, black metal atonality with Left Hand Path catchiness and the ominous, mid-paced crawl that Clandestine and Like an Everflowing Stream used to great result, though without the oddball sounding out-of-tune bass used here. Being a primarily rocket-paced mixture of all of the above, “Breathing the Ashes” shouldn’t come across as lethal or flow as smoothly as it does, what with all the tempo changes, the melodies coming and going, the bass emerging from beneath the guitar’s gristly clamour and the sheer number of riffs and variations on those riffs.
This appears to be where Desultory’s talent lies; making cohesive sense of what on the surface appears to be an unfurled mess. The quartet’s deft ear for how to embrace what some people might cast aside as wildly diverging parts is their strength. Where they lack is some of the additional instrumentation intros, outros, segues and the closing track “Our Departure” which may signal the end of their fifth album (hopefully not their existence), but also is a departure in that its sounds forced and phoned in when compared to the seething attack of Through Aching Aeons’ remainder.