As many AMG readers know, production quality plays a major role in the reviews posted on this site. Love it or hate it, care about it or don’t give a fuck about it, awareness of the “Loudness War” and the desire for quality metal is real. And with a new Angry Metal-Fi article out on dynamic range, I found it timely that I would be reviewing Deserted Fear’s sophomore release, Kingdom of Worms. Why, you ask? Well, Dan “The Man” Swanö himself handled the mixing and mastering of the album (as well as their debut, My Empire). Does this imply that this album is flawless in every way? Does it have the ideal dynamic range? Well, no. But Dan definitely had his hand in this and you can tell immediately the difference he can make. Let’s face it; most death metal is loud as shit. Therefore, I have a set volume on all my players because of the regularly brickwalling of this genre. Should they be loud? Hell yes .However, there’s a difference between “heavy loud” and “ear-drum splitting loud.” Stack Kingdom of Worms up against death favorites from years past and you’ll hear what a true master and advocator of quality metal can do to make it feel like the good ole days.
With my first listen, I expected some modern Swedish Death Metal and prepared myself accordingly. All of my normal levels were set and I anticipated that the standard intro of orchestration and suspense to Kingdom of Worms would be succeeded by a massive explosion of brickwalled fury. Instead, this album didn’t “blow up” as much as it “opened up.” I found myself cranking this beyond my normal levels in order to hear all its nuances, and what I heard was pure ecstasy. There’s nothing more effective and crushing than having every instrument beautifully balanced, delivering riff after massive riff of devastation. After the intro,“Forging Delusions,” explodes into the most balls-out track of the bunch. Along with “The Agony” and “With Might and Main,” the opener shows Deserted Fear hacking up classic Bolt Thrower and early Asphyx and mending them into a new monster. “Forging Delusions” and “The Agony” incorporate massive heaviness with head-banging thrash that T-bones the bejeezus out of you, while “With Might and Main” showcases a badass trodding riff, Obituary worship, and some sick galloping blastbeats from Simon Mengs.
Mixed within the ferocity, you’ll find melody stained moments in “Call Me Your God,” the Watain-inspired “Wrath on Your Wound,” and the powerful closer, “Last of a Fading Kind.” While Manuel Glatter utilizes some classic Martin van Drunen vocal deliveries throughout (with some of the harshness of L-G Petrov), it’s during these melodic moments that he digs deep and pulls out some John Tardy-meets-Fernando Ribeiro desperation. This approach is most apparent in “Call Me Your God” and the very Dark Tranquillity-like “Mortal Reign.” Though subtle, his vocal diversity helps one distinguish track from track. It also doesn’t hurt that Manuel has some impressive guitar chops to match comrade-in-arms, Fabian Hilderbrandt (who you can thank for that rich bass presence).
Unfortunately, Kingdom of Worms suffers from a couple of problems. Even though its 11 songs come out to just over 41 minutes, it feels too long. It requires multiple listens to get the standouts to boil to the top and it begins to lose its way after the eighth song. The lackluster moments at the end of the album include the odd Iced Earth plodding of “Shattering the Soil” and the Gothenburg-like “Mortal Reich.” Not horrible but definitely out of place. Also, I’m not a fan of the Necropolis-era Vader-isms found in the cheesy intro and “Torn by Hatred.” Because there isn’t really anything here that hasn’t been done before, the below average elements make the album feel long and somewhat predictable.
Overall, the quality of the mix and the straight forward delivery makes Kingdom of Worms an enjoyable listen. It may take you a few spins to appreciate it for what it truly is, but this no-fucking-around death machine hits hard in all the right places while giving your ears an old-fashioned barrage that won’t cause a modern-metal headache.