An Image Of Solitude
Take two of the most successful names in atmospheric black metal (Agalloch and Borknagar) and meld them together in a unique fusion. That's an introduction to Desiderium, a US two-man project of Michael Rumple, vocalist of Acrasia, and guest Philip Wentworth as guitarist/bassist. Those familiar with Acrasia's prog metal tendencies, however, should put aside any idea of similarity, and instead enjoy what unfolds.
Musically speaking, the programmed drums are quite tasteful and varied, bearing in mind that neither Rumple nor Wentworth are drummers. From the raw approach to “And Her Cries Echoed Across The Hills” to the doom feel of closer “The Passing Of Life From Troubled Eyes”, the distorted guitars are not overpowering but still make themselves felt, and the tone on the solos is beautiful. The bass is unfortunately absent for the most part aside from “Pale Cloak Of Dawn”, and in my opinion a larger bass role would have made this a perfect release, but the other instruments and choral sections more than make up for it.
The listener is greeted with a piano- and synth-based “intro” of five minutes, a collaboration of bandmate Zach Dresher and experimental artist Will Mygatt, a calming atmospheric piece that also provides a neat segue. Each of the songs have their own feel about them; Rumple makes his love of Pale Folklore-era Agalloch well-known in the melodies, but there are also hints of aforementioned Borknagar along with Swallow The Sun and an orchestral ending to the album. There is definitely a lot of variety that has gone into this album, including some Arcturus-style cleans, a brilliantly executed acoustic section, and some space-y synthesizer effects, all on different songs.
The vocals were the biggest surprise here due to Rumple's usual lower growling approach in Acrasia. Instead, he goes for an easily-comprehensible rasp not unlike Haughm's (Agalloch) and some unproduced cleans on the last two tracks. His lyrical style is more honest and direct than many black metal bands, with such lines as “What men walked this path before I?/These memories are all forgotten/In one hundred years, so am I”. Granted, not as eloquent as some, but his narrative style of delivery in a slower post-metal fashion adds another dimension, and unites them well with the music.
Flaws are naturally present in this release, including the mentioned lack of bass, as well as the cleans which could have been softened with a little production. The influence of Agalloch is quite prominent, so anybody who seeks originality in music may be cautious in approach. Finally, the piano section in “Forest Of Forgotten Memories” feels slightly forced rather than natural in progression, but that's a minor detail rather than a major bone to pick.
All in all, this was a pleasant surprise to receive, and certainly an album to which I can return often and fully enjoy. Also, it introduced me to Borknagar, whom I had not tried prior to this release, and re-affirmed my love of older Agalloch. Definitely worth checking out if you like either of the two, or have any interest in atmospheric black metal.
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Angel's rating: 4.25/5