Dessiderium – Aria Review

December is an exceptionally bad time to release any album. Between all the list compiling and TYMHM-ing that comes with the territory, I like to try to squeeze in a review or two for the “good enough” albums that find themselves caught out in the cold amid list season celebrations. Mind you, I don’t let them inside to partake, but I at least open the door just a crack to grant them a fleeting breath of celebratory warmth. For an album like Aria, this is an exceptionally disappointing fate. Had this been released even a few months prior, I feel that I would have had the time to digest this immense record to its fullest by list season. As it stands right now, Dessiderium has presented me with an immensely likable, if somewhat unwieldy progressive death metal release that I love in spite of its flaws.

Between the acoustic meandering and melancholic clean vocals that introduce the opening track “White Morning in a World She Knows,” I initially thought that Aria was to be a slab of obvious Opeth worship. As the proceedings blossom into colorful symphonic prog in the Native Construct vein, and later into a dense bout of blackened Krallice riffs, this comparison became an afterthought. In the tradition of Aquilus and Wilderun, Dessiderium uses their Opeth affinity as a platform for reaching higher ambitions. What sets Aria apart from many of its contemporaries, however, is its uniquely optimistic tone. Dessiderium largely eschews minor scales in favor of a more traditionally melodic palette. It doesn’t necessarily sound “happy” in a power metal way, but its atmosphere of adventure and sage acceptance is colorful in a way most extreme metal bands can’t touch.

While Aria does not offer much melodic variety across its five gargantuan tracks, its structures and the rhythms within are varied enough to repel stagnation. The aforementioned “White Morning in a World She Knows” is a methodical slow burn that shows Dessiderium at its most progressive, as does the title track with its reliance on catchy, complex grooves. “Pale” and “Moon Lust Delirium,” conversely, are black metal-minded ragers replete with blast beats. While universally captivating in their musical ideas, I’m not entirely convinced that the songs are all assembled in a logical fashion. They each possess a coherent identity and consistent tone, yet the sprawling paths towards their ends approach stream of consciousness levels of structure. I’m the type of music enjoyer who can appreciate just being along for the ride, but those who are hoping for more defined constructions to latch onto may find Aria vexing.

This sort of freeform progressive metal is not something that I’ve heard The Artisan Era backing since 2019’s superb Warforged debut, and Aria‘s production is atypical for the label as well. While not particularly nuanced, the mixing feels balanced, and the tones are suitably modern without being overly glossy and distorted like releases on this label are known for. The programmed drums sound surprisingly good, and were it not for the overly clean fills and transitions of busier cuts like “Pale,” I might not have suspected them to be programmed at all without checking the credits. All other instruments are handled by Alex Haddad (guitars in Arkaik), who exhibits exceptional talent without being distractingly technical. Call Dessiderium overindulgent if you will, but it exhibits a refreshing level of restraint for tech death-adjacent metal.

I didn’t spend enough time on Dessiderium‘s more black metal-oriented Shadow Burn from last year, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to really dig into Aria. It has captivated me on a level I had not anticipated, its sprawling compositions fully engrossing me even if I don’t completely abide by their structures. More time with Aria may yield deeper understanding, and as I’m not even close to done with it, I may regret not scoring it higher by the end of the honeymoon phase. In any case, as the honorable mentions section of my year-end list is reserved for albums I love yet did not devote enough time to, Dessiderium may well earn itself a comfortable spot. Yeah, I know what I said. Scrooge had a change of heart, too. Now to go get these fucking ghosts out of my bedroom.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: The Artisan Era Official | Bandcamp
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: December 10th, 2021

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