Counting Our Scars
posted on 2/2011 By:
Sweden’s Desultory has a career that began in the early Nineties with two solid entries in the annals of Swedish death metal, Into Eternity and Bitterness, that presented a combination of the dark vitriol of early Entombed and Dismember with the more melodically emotive guitar work that would become Gothenberg’s trademark sound. On their third album, Swallow the Snake, the band attempted to pull an Entombed and mostly dropped death metal in favor of a ‘hardcore’ rock sound that feebly attempts to channel Corrosion of Conformity and pales in comparison to the decidedly great Wolverine Blues. And now, fourteen years on, Desultory are back in action with Counting Our Scars, and happily I can report that while the album is nothing like a return to pre-1996 form, it is a solid re-introduction to a lesser-known-but-talented band from the halcyon days of Swedish death metal.
Opening track “In A Cage” starts theatrically with layered, somber harmonies and immediately shows the production flexing its muscles (Necromorbus Studios: see Watain’s Sworn to the Dark). The song then blasts off at blast-beat speed with a pleasantly aggressive but melodic riff that brought to mind The Crown, and that’s a good thing. The first riff in “Ready to Bleed,” the third track, sees the band channeling a bit of country-mates Necrophobic, but only briefly before busting into a sweet little military stomp-groove like they were Bolt Thrower’s overly-active kid brother. Desultory doesn’t sound as angry as they did on Into Eternity, which could be due to the generally angry (i.e. raw, less polished, not digital) sound of death metal production in 1993, but what the band has lost of its youthful rough edges they have replaced with a mature and modern sound.
Throughout, Desultory is nothing if not consistant, and generally speaking, each track has a moment or two of strong energy and catchy riffing. Melodic leads are employed liberally and in good taste—a hallmark of Swedish death metal, if you ask me—and the underlying souped-up punk tempo of most tracks keeps energy high. When the band does slow down for an anthemic semi-ballad like “This Moment is Gone,” the success of the song depends more heavily on vocalist Tobias Sidegård, and Sidegård is good but not great. The instrumental sections are strong, but the song falters when compared to the bulk of the other tracks on Counting Our Scars. But there is nothing to fear as everything returns to form on “Uneven Numbers,” the shortest and fastest track on the album, and possibly my favorite. What I can say for certain is that Desultory is not covering any new territory, nor are they regurgitating old licks, but the plain old quality of their delivery is refreshing to this listener’s ears.
I get into discussions with my friends over which is better, Swedish or American death metal, and while none of us necessarily believe one is objectively better than the other—we all tend to enjoy the death metal of both countries, to be sure—it is a fun topic for nerds like us to debate. What we agree on from the start is that what Swedish death metal bands do, they tend to do really, really well, and Desultory, back from the dead, is no exception. So if you like Swedish death metal, and particularly its more melodically-oriented exponents (and barring the latter-day melo-death-rock of In Flames, Soilwork, and the like), then you know what to expect from a release like Counting Our Scars: get into it, I say.
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