There is often a mystique surrounding bands that take several years in between projects. Whether they deserve it or not, bands and artists who most often fall into this camp (the Tools and Sufjan Stevenses of the world) tend to be surrounded by hype simply for the fact that they have not released new material in a significant period of time. This isn’t to say that the material released cannot be quality, because it most certainly can be, but rather that there seems to be a strange thread in musical fandom that connects time elapsed between records to expected quality/increased hype. Finnish death metal maestros Desolate Shrine represent the exact opposite of this phenomenon. Having released four albums in just over six years, the band’s fans barely have enough time to absorb their last album before the release of their next project. This pace of material creation also comes with its own potential downsides, but none of them seem to apply to Desolate Shrine, who have topped their previous efforts with each new record, culminating in the crown jewel of their discography, this year’s Deliverance from the Godless Void. In the war of quality over quantity, Desolate Shrine seems to ask: why not both? What a novel proposition.
For the uninitiated, Desolate Shrine create soundscapes of nihilistic dread that combine elements of death, black, and doom metal into a whirling cesspool of existential malaise. Imagine a healthy amalgamation of Incantation-core with a sprinkling of the latter half of the Second Wave plus a dash of diSEMBOWELMENT and you’ll come pretty close to the noise these guys peddle. In addition to these abrasive sounds, Desolate Shrine inject a hefty amount of atmosphere into their compositions and guitar tones, in addition to incorporating other elements such as synths, keys, and acoustic guitars into the mix, ultimately creating an approach to extreme music that is fairly distinct. In Deliverance from the Godless Void, however, Desolate Shrine push their sound in a distinctly blackened death direction, resulting in one of their heaviest and nastiest records to date. It’s also an expansive one, including two tracks that nearly eclipse the ten-minute mark and reaching nearly an hour in length. While the band have yet to release a bad record, Deliverance emphasizes each world-class aspect of their sound (blistering guitar work, manic and powerful drumming, throaty and wretched vocals) to brilliant effect, while accentuating some fairly fantastic elements that bring a new gravity and menace to the music. Overall, it’s the best amalgamation of everything that makes Desolate Shrine special, turned to eleven.
“The Primordial One” kicks off the proceedings with a fantastic and undeniable bang, as a hurricane of instrumental and vocal madness comes flying to wage war against your eardrums. Blast beats, atmospheric guitar work, and some filthy vocals create an unrelenting barrage through the track’s six-plus minutes. It’s a blistering assault that shows in stark detail that Desolate Shrine have come to annihilate. Subsequent track “Lord of the Three Realms” focuses more heavily on the traditional death metal aspects of the band’s sound, presenting a barrage of bone-crushing riffs that serve to increase an already impossibly intense and menacing soundscape. Thirteen minutes in, and Desolate Shrine have already pulverized listeners into nothingness. While this audio attack is thoroughly exhilarating and enjoyable, the band show no lack of ingenuity or variety. “Unmask the Face of False” reveals itself slowly and methodically as a doom-tinged barn-burner that leans heavily on keys and atmosphere in its middle section. It’s a nearly ten-minute journey of death metal glory that segues back into another blackened death barrage in “The Waters of Man”, which once again incorporates haunting atmospherics to create a pall of dread that culminates in a world-destroying finale. Speaking of atmosphere, “The Graeae” is one of the most haunting and captivating tracks the band has yet written, utilizing acoustic guitars and heavy atmospherics to slow the entire album down to a deliberate and menacing pace that in its quietness never once feels safe. “Demonic Evocation Prayer” is ferocious (and brings with it an absolutely filthy guitar tone), while “The Silent Star” and “…Of Hell” bring the album to an appropriately epic close. Each song is fantastic in its own right, but only made more incredible when considered contextually within the album.
It’s honestly a difficult task to find anything wrong with this record. It is lengthy, which may turn off some potential listeners. But those willing to take the plunge into the abyss created by Deliverance from the Godless Void will find a rapturous experience that combines the very best elements of extreme metal into a roiling sea of blackened death metal destruction. They may produce albums at a fairly impressive clip, but Desolate Shrine are one of the few shining examples of quality only increasing with quantity. One of the most engrossing and engaging death metal records of 2017.
Deliverance from the Godless Void is available now via Dark Descent Records and is available for streaming and purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page.