Year of Desolation - Year of Desolation
Prosthetic Records
Thrash / Death Metal
11 songs (38:08)
Release year: 2007
Band Website, Prosthetic Records
Reviewed by Al
Surprise of the month

When I think of prime breeding grounds for the more extreme practitioners of metal, the first place which springs to mind is most certainly not Middle America. (Unless of course you count Slipknot as an extreme metal band, in which case you’re at the wrong site and are looking for Despite the rather perplexing number of cookie-cutter metalcore outfits that seem to crop up out of the US it’s a mild rarity to discover a bona fide American thrash or death metal outfit worth its salt these days that manages to rise above obscurity. This could perhaps be attributed to different cultures or influences as NWOBHM, Gothenburg and the Scandinavian black metal movements were all distinctly European institutions, or may simply be attributed the dominant tastes of the metal buying public on different sides of the Atlantic. While this is an interesting phenomenon it would perhaps be best suited to an editorial so I will end my digression and get to the point at hand, that being the Indianapolis quintet Year of Desolation and their self titled sophomore album.

Formed in 2001, the band begun its career playing (try and control your shocked amazement here) standard metalcore. While not having the liberty of hearing the 2004 debut album Your Blood, My Vendetta, by all accounts it was an uninteresting effort of by the numbers metalcore that received little praise from critics and metalheads alike. Since that release however things must have changed fairly drastically as the music the band plays today is a world away from that description.

The selection to be found on this release combines elements of old school thrash by way of speedy, chugging riffs and machine gun drumming with death metal vocals, slower staccato riffs and furious fretboard attacks. At times sounding highly influenced by Gothenburg dual melodic leads such as on Suffer Thy Nemesis and at others by more unmelodic and brutal sources such as Carcass. There is a reasonable amount of versatility to be found within the band’s sound. While everything is delivered at a blistering pace and melody occasionally gives way to a sheer maelstrom of sonic bedlam there are often times when the soloing and riffing take on an almost Megadeth style of furious melody and technical virtuosity and the dual lead guitar lines echo early In Flames efforts. The vocals, none of which are delivered ‘clean’ stick for the most part to a typical death metal roar, but do revert to a raspy black metal style delivery at times and at others a more ‘core-ish shouting growl (possibly a throw back to the band's previous effort). Despite the apparent genre hopping quality that could be garnered from this description it actually fits together very well, the plethora of styles doesn’t jar the listener (unless of course you mistakenly slipped this into the player instead of your favourite Nickelback album, an easy mistake to make) and I take my metaphorical hat off to the group for accomplishing a remarkably seamless combination of styles.

As I’m sure you can garner from my babble at this stage, I’m quite impressed, more impressed with an act that I’ve just discovered than I have been for a while. Tracks such as the furious thrash attack of Erasing Your Existence, the seminal dual lead guitar masterclass of 539 and the Slayer meets death metal brutality of Forged in the Flames of Malcontent are all fantastic examples of good modern extreme metal. I would even go as far as to say that there are no tracks I would pick out as specifically bad, however this brings me to my first and most important criticism. The tracks are all of a similar length and while don’t sound overwhelmingly similar they do seem to run together after a while. It may be a side effect of the unrelenting pace but by the second half I found my attention drifting away time and time again. Year of Desolation do what they do very well, it’s just that once you’ve heard them do it 4 or 5 times, the desire to hear them do it another 5 times fades a little.

Final things worth noting are on the positive side, the production is fantastic, everything seems crystal clear and nothing seems out of whack in the mix. While you black metal fans may disagree this is something I always find laudable, especially on a non major release. On the negative side, the band need to lose the metalcore vocals which very rarely raise their head altogether as they simply do not fit with the musical style. Additionally, the lyrics could use a bit of work as they seem to often fall on the wrong side of banality. While this is something rarely at the forefront of music of this style they could still be improved upon.

All in all this pleasantly surprised me and will be inhabiting my musical rotation for the foreseeable future. I’m glad to see a band diverging from playing run of the mill, non-entity metal into something a bit more interesting. I hope the rest of the American underground scene thinking of penning yet another metalcore offering take note and realise that the world has enough average music. This band are proof that if you shake things up a bit you can achieve something more than worthwhile. I only hope they can keep it up.

Killing Songs :
539, Forged in the Flames of Malcontent and Suffer Thy Nemesis
Al quoted 84 / 100
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