Desaster is fuckin’ coconuts. There, I said it and I stand by it. The reigning overlords of overkill are back for an eighth album full of lunatic blackened speed/thrash loaded with nods to the deep roots of metal and NWoBHM. They’ve always been unhinged, unpredictable and at times almost a parody of metal itself, but they’ve churned out some righteously amusing and trve moments of molten goodness over their leather and spike studded career. 2012s The Arts of Destruction was one of their finest moments and left me wanting much more, but the band saw fit to make us all wait 4 years for The Oath of an Iron Ritual. Needless cruelty and bad ass album titles aside, it’s here now and the legionnaire armed with a spear on the cover clearly gives me the metallic legitimacy to opine on what’s in store for lovers of overdone, bombastic speed.
One of the joys of listening to a Desaster album is the constant feeling things are about to go haywire and wreck desasterously, as if the band are poised to ignite or explosively decompress, getting blown into the void as the music reaches more and more unreasonable speeds. Hell, they usually sound that way even at moderate speeds. Happily, this out-of-control vibe is present on rabid opener “Proclamation in Shadows” and it’s exactly the kind of music I want from Desaster – frantic black thrash that sounds like Show No Mercy era Slayer fighting Bathory and Piledriver in a burning Bouncy House™. But like the more recent platters they also cram in a butt-ton of quirky melody and interesting flavors alongside the carnage and dumpster fisticuffs, especially on the song’s back-end.
The maniacal speed and nuthouse frenzy runs throughout “End of Tyranny” and vocalist Sataniac outdoes himself with a slobbering, vomitous performance that’s both awesome and ridiculous in equal measure. “The Cleric’s Arcanum” is the most like old school Desaster, rivaling their mighty “Alliance to the Powerthrone” for most brilliantly ludicrous moment in Germanic metal history. Insane, aggressive and uncontrollable by modern science, this is what you’d want blasting over the intercom as your 747 plunged toward an apocalyptic explosion (please return your tray tables to the upright position). “Haunting Sirens” offers a seven plus minute take on blackened thrash with various melodic bells and whistles and “Damnatio Ad Bestias” introduces classic metal riffs from the Judas Priest/Saxon playbook but sped up to respectably savage levels. Other gems include “Conquer & Contaminate” with its hell blazing insanity right off Inferno‘s epic Utter Hell platter, and title track which goes full cheddar for some gleefully amazeballs fun that’s so metal it might actually embarrass you a little deep down inside.
Every track has its own filthy pleasures and the album flows well between crazy thrash and more restrained moments. It doesn’t matter that some of the songs hit over 7 minutes because the very nature of the Desaster style guarantees things stay interesting, incredulous and oddly addicting throughout. The sound is raw but clear enough to hear all the jagged edges and caveman musicianship and together it’s all a brilliant shit show in the same way as early Sepultura and all Sarcofago albums and that kinda thing never gets olde.
As on all Desaster platters, the completely unstable vokills of Sataniac are the star attraction. He uses a combination thrash bark/blackened squeal and to say it’s overdone doesn’t come close to explaining it. He stands alongside Chris Reifert of Autopsy as the most over the top vocalist in metal and I love his commitment to over-commitment. On top of these thrashing bashing riffs he throws up a complete hungry man breakfast special with extra yoke and mayo. Even when the riffs are restrained and melodic, there he is, technicolor yawning all over the notes. It’s a special thing really. Providing the musical canvas for these rarefied puke-works, guitarist Infernal digs deep into the history of classic metal, thrash and proto-blackness to cobble together a compelling collection of leads. Some are all about the speed but just as many are almost stadium ready rockers. He’s adept at blending all these influences in inventive ways and the songs shift and morph in amusing (read as: chaotic) ways. The rhythm section of Odin (bass) and Tormentor (drums) provide a rocky, thunderous backbone with a good amount of punk swagger and though Desaster are definitely not the most technical or skilled band out there, that’s part of what makes them so damn endearing.
The Oath of an Iron Ritual is a ton of freaky fun and exactly what you want from a Desaster outing. It’s a small mark below The Arts of Destruction but still more than enough to satisfy the need for offbeat, overblown metal high on the kvlt and trve scale. Put on your anti-drool bib and rubber gloves and take the iron oath ov metal!