(This is DGR‘s review of the new album by the German death metal band Deserted Fear, which was released by Century Media in February.)
Deserted Fear sound absolutely massive on their fourth album, Drowned By Humanity. Having released discs at a fairly steady clip – one every two years for the most part – the Deserted Fear crew have had plenty of opportunities to iterate and expand upon their sound – and also to keep to the black-and-white-skulls motif that makes up a majority of their album artwork.
They have found themselves lying somewhere in the realm of a slightly more melodeath-leaning Kataklysm, with an album (to repeat) written to sound massive. Drowned By Humanity is built around big riffs, big grooves, and big hooks, making its forty-some-odd minutes feel like a hell of a lot longer.
To demonstrate Deserted Fear‘s lofty ambitions, Drowned By Humanity opens like a lot of recent heavy metal albums, with a minute-or-so orchestral and choir piece, to make things seem suitably epic from moment one. But also like a lot of recent metal albums, Drowned By Humanity faces a pressing question: Where do we go from there?
Notably, Drowned By Humanity starts off strong once you get past the initial perfunctory “Intro” song. It makes one hell of a first impression with its first few tracks, and is almost strong enough to carry a good first impression through the entirety of the album. There’s a few highlights in the back-half – which we’ll cover in a bit – and the deluxe edition has two interesting bonus takes, but most of Drowned By Humanity‘s strength hits in the first four songs of its eleven total, if only because they do a tremendous amount of work laying out the foundation by which the disc is then defined.
After the intro, Drowned By Humanity begins in earnest with the first of a few mid-tempo growlers in “All Will Fall”. It’s an interesting choice, in part because so many bands will launch into one of their faster songs after a suitably “epic” intro. “All Will Fall” is built around a relatively solid groove and a fantastic melodic line, one that will see a few permutations throughout Drowned By Humanity, as it seems Deserted Fear loved it, and built other songs around “All Will Fall” and its writing style.
“An Everlasting Dawn” is the first of the real solid melo-death tracks. With its quick, classic, one-two combo and near-At The Gates riffing, “An Everlasting Dawn” proves to be a pretty early highlight even if its also pretty recognizable for what it is, in melodeath terms. The second one of those is “Reflect The Storm”, which has some glorious lead-guitar work and also proves to be another early highlight. The constant frenetic nature of the song, combined with speed of the band playing behind it, means that just about every movement of “Reflect The Storm” makes you want to nod your head along with it.
Drowned By Humanity does stumble at its neatly bifurcated back-half though, beginning with “Welcome To Reality”. It isn’t a bad song, but it starts to show that, by the halfway point of Drowned By Humanity, Deserted Fear have three songwriting modes on this go-round: A mid-tempo chug, the quicker melodeath track, and a slower bruiser. “Welcome To Reality” in this case seems like an alternate take on the album’s opening song, although the vocal lines within it are pretty fun to growl along to as words seems to stretch and throw themselves into one another.
All three modes show up in Drowned By Humanity‘s first half, and then by the second half things start to loop around and you wind up in a situation where Deserted Fear start to tread over themselves a bit. Standing on their own, they’re solid tracks, but it’s hard not to have a weird twinge of deja vu in the album’s back half, and the beginning of an idea that at forty-something minutes the disc seems to be running a little long.
It’s like at the halfway point of their album, Deserted Fear erected a mirror and decided to reflect their own front part of the disc back on itself. In fact, a solid chunk of that feeling could probably be chalked up to the band leaving all their slower bruisers (in the vein of “The Final Chapter” in the album’s front bit) in the album’s back half. If you’re a big fun of the chug-heavy parts of songs, then the last half of Drowned By Humanity will be your bastion of respite.
Deserted Fear‘s odd sort of personal space in the metal world may have them leaning toward sounding like a melodeath-minded Kataklysm, yet some of the lead guitar work on Drowned By Humanity has the flair of In Flames in the late ’90s/early-aughts, and not just because they both share a song entitled “Reflect The Storm”. There are some legitimately catchy and crushingly heavy hooks written throughout the album, which contributes to making the band sound much, much larger than their lineup might suggest.
Four albums in and Deserted Fear have iterated upon their formula enough that when combined with a proper production job makes them sound like they could fill a concert hall with sound alone. While Drowned By Humanity may unfortunately drag a bit in its back half (the bonus tracks “Die In Vain” and the re-recording of “Tear Of My Throne” not included, because those are a combo of fun and interesting tracks from a musical collector’s perspective), it still brings a pretty consistently heavy and constant throughline, worthy enough for a handful of listens.
Drowned By Humanity is definitely one of the more front-loaded discs in recent times, but the solid melo-death groove of the band still impresses nonetheless.