When I think “German death metal,” I usually think of names like Muhammed Suiçmez, Lille Gruber, and Christian Münzner. Innovators in technicality and brutality, all three of them have left their mark on metal despite the drowsy German death metal scene. Every so often though, the sleeping snore, and the cause of the rumble today is a different trio with a different take on death metal. Deserted Fear pay homage to their boreal neighbors via a chunky synthesis of Björriffs and Viking simplicity, and even if their fourth album, Drowned by Humanity¸ won’t awaken Teutonic death metal, it stirs the body enough to delay a death pronouncement.
Deserted Fear sound exactly like you expect a Century Media band to sound in 2019, for better or worse. Chunky riffs, meaty production, and concise songs are the order, and Deserted Fear deliver on time. If you want a record that sounds like a distillation of At the Gates, Amon Amarth, and Heaven Shall Burn, you might think you want Drowned by Humanity. If you don’t want that, well, it’s still here in case you change your mind. You can enter the album at just about any point and expect to hear one down-tuned guitar playing a lead over the mid-paced riff of another down-tuned guitar, kick drums keeping pace in the background and a German man belting out a half-death-growl-half-hardcore-roar.
If it seems like I’m not terribly excited about this exercise, it’s because I’m not. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Drowned by Humanity. It has many of the flaws endemic to modern death metal: an out-of-place intro track, a few cringe-worthy tough-guy lyrics, a few riffs that are just a tad too far on the chuggy side. It’s mostly mid-paced and mostly easy to follow each song, even though they all sort of run together. It’s boring after about fifteen minutes. It’s what you would expect Dethklok to sound like if you’d never listened to Dethklok: an uninspired distillation of the commercial edge of death metal. It evokes nothing more than cheap tabulature books stuffed to the gills with generic riffs and drum patterns that teach the basics without infringing any copyrights.
I have not hated my time listening to Drowned by Humanity. Any record that’s this heavily indebted to At the Gates has to be entertaining in the background, and the band seem content to stay there except for a few occasions. When one makes the mistake of paying attention to the record, it all falls apart. There’s just nothing to pay attention to in this music, and though it’s easy to latch on to choruses as they come, it’s even easier to let them go. Even after listening through Drowned in Humanity a good dozen or so times, I can’t remember a single song or riff. None of them asked much of my attention, and the ones that did weren’t worth the effort.
Drowned by Humanity is death metal for those without a taste for or interest in death metal. I might complain about the incessant mediocrity of old-school clone bands a lot, but at least they have a sense of context. Deserted Fear sound like a band from nowhere playing music divorced from any sort of timeline. This record completely lacks individuality and relevance and your life will not be impacted in any way by the dry fact of its existence. Sandwiched in between bellicose Italian brutal death, avant-garde French black metal, the scowling Polish black and death metal scene, and the torrents of material poured out of Scandinavia, the German black and death metal scene remains for the most part slow and derivative, and Deserted Fear won’t change one thing about it.