Thy Despair – The Song of Desolation Review

I’m a sucker for epic-sounding music. From Two Steps from Hell‘s “Heart of Courage” (the main opening theme song of the hilarious TV show Nathan for You) to Yanni‘s1 scintillating “Nostalgia,” I have a sweet spot for shimmering synths and bombastic orchestral swells. So naturally, when I saw that Thy Despair included a Game of Thrones metal lyrics cover video in their promo materials, I took the bait. They successfully reeled me into their arms, but when I pressed play, the video had my YanniEnya, and Nightwish loving self recoiling at the corniness and casting furtive glances back over my shoulder to check if the coast was clear so I could quietly retract my steps backward. But it was too late. I ultimately decided to chalk the poor quality of Thy Despair‘s lyric video up to the fact that it was a side project quickly slapped together and nothing more. I needed to give them another chance by listening to their debut full-length album The Song of Desolation from beginning to end before arriving at any ill-informed conclusions. How bad could it be?

Thy Despair was formed in 2006 PC (Pre Covid-19) in Kiev, Ukraine by guitarist Nephilim. After fourteen long years of existence, their first full-length album is finally seeing the light of day – and during a global pandemic, at that. From what I gather, the source of Thy Despair‘s shortage of material is largely due to a perpetual stream of lineup changes and numerous two to three year hiatuses. While Thy Despair have persevered and are finally ready to share their music with the world, it’s almost no surprise then that the band’s gothic, black-tinged symphonic metal sounds as if it missed its time by a couple decades. The Song of Desolation would sound more at home released alongside a 90s or 2000s era Theatre of Tragedy album, which I realize will likely be a plus to many. On the album’s ten tracks, vocalist Elin’s operatic vocals compete for center stage with Nephilim’s monstrous, death growls, which surface from the deepest depths of his stomach. This back and forth is integral to Thy Despair‘s gothic, beauty and the beast sound. Inspired by the war in eastern Ukraine, the two vocalists sing of freedom, heart, and the struggle for survival.

Sadly, The Song of Desolation is no step up in quality from their hastily put together GoT lyric video. Thy Despair‘s debut has me feeling both frustrated and conflicted. There are fleeting moments when things fall into place. Take “Falling Star.” It’s catchy. It’s alluring. It’s pure, epic fun. Male clean vocals make a prominent appearance for the first time and add a new and interesting dimension to their sound that I believe would have rounded out their album if used more liberally. Similarly, the chilling, atmospheric ambience which opens up “Army of Dead” adds another staple ingredient to their pantry, and I wonder why they didn’t experiment with it more.

The promising moments on The Song of Desolation are too few and far between to make up for my other grievances. What was most alarming to me from the opening moments on the album is how far forward Elin’s vocals sit in the mix. They suffocate all the other parts, and her strains in the upper register are especially highlighted. Listening to Thy Despair is essentially listening to Elin’s over the top vocals plus some epic-sounding stuff in the background. The first half of the album is particularly uninteresting, and the speech at the end of closing track “Falcon” is simply nauseating.

The Song of Desolation is ultimately a letdown for me. I do not recommend anyone, let alone fans of TristaniaDraconian, or Insomnium (all of which Thy Despair liken themselves to) listen to Thy Despair‘s debut. Nevertheless, in a time when you could sit on your couch doing nothing, fueling your slow morph into a potato, maybe Thy Despair‘s pompous and epic feel-good metal may be just the cheesy fix you need to get your blood pumping. And if that isn’t doing it for you, a few minutes of Two Steps from Hell should do the trick.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Rockshots Records
Websites: thydespair.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thydespair
Releases Worldwide: May 8th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Yanni has already been referenced not only once but twice on the blog. Now I’m more curious than ever to hear Steel‘s dinner party playlist.
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