A sense of balance is important to so many things in life … and Desert Storm get it right with Death Rattle (APF Records).
The skilled and experienced Oxford, England, collective launch into this new album with headlong headbanger ‘Master Of None’, a superb opener and a fine showcase for what these guys do well. A simple but irresistible riff, mainly clean vocals (the outstanding Matthew Ryan), a blissfully wandering, absorbing bassline amid a solid rhythm section, and then the piercing lead geetar, rising above the cacophony, above the rhythmic, groovy maelstrom, offering a vital sense of dynamic space and adding to the overall drama.
Yes, it’s tough to pin down the sound specifically as doom/stoner/sludge/even psych/whatever, so perhaps a vague but appreciative and accommodating “progressive” banner is best? Or if, like me, you’re not entirely comfortable with the labels, just follow the undeniable urge to get up on your two feet and go with the flow (that’s what it is – it’s dance music!). It’s also a bit Pearl Jam, a bit Tool. Whatever you think it is, few are doing it better than Desert Storm, on the go for fifteen-plus years, pulling in listeners from outside the specialist genres who just love heavy, quality rocking out.
Never harsh enough to be alienating, there are subtle, moody sections amid some howling and growling. That’s where the vital sense of balance comes in, and why it wins the day.
The epic ‘Cheyne Stoking’, clocking in at 7:47, the longest of the nine tracks, opens like heavy prog, with theatrical vocals, tribal drums and chugging bass taking much of the load. Mesmerising, hooky stuff, full of depth and character (see the 2004 movie, Dead Man’s Shoes, if you haven’t already. If you have seen it, see it again).
‘Melatone’ is another track with a proggy, Floyd vibe, and another subtle, atmospheric section, before it climbs violently into that groove Desert Storm are so good at. Surely destined to become a live favourite, ‘Melatone’ finds drummer Elliot Cole on top form on skins and fills.
The wonderful ‘Insomniac’ boasts a helter-skelter, pell-mell opening before morphing into an almost funky, jazzy, fusion-y romp and heading for a macabre finale, Ryan’s vocals going all pantomime villain (that theatricality once more).
There’s just so much to this album, so much variety, so much power, so much control. Death Rattle boasts a great sound, loud and bright, never too fuzzy or distorted, recorded and mixed by Steve “Geezer” Watkins at Woodworm, Oxfordshire, mastered by Brad Boatright (Torche, Nails, High On Fire) at Audiosiege in Portland, Oregon.
On balance, Death Rattle is a corker, with nary a false note or wrong step, all the way ’til it draws its last, as instrumental ‘New Dawn’ brings things to a memorable close.
Buy the album here:
8 / 10