Look, I get it: there are a lot of death metal bands out there. You get up in the morning, there’s a death metal band already on the toilet. No room on the 7:15am train into downtown? Death metal bands. No more banana strawberry Activia yogurt at the grocery store? Death metal bands.
Look out the window right now.
DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT. Death metal bands as far as the eye can see.
They all have demos they want you to hear. They all have a show coming up that you should attend. You know, if you have a chance.
Some of these bands are good; most of them are painfully average; a handful of them are so bad you can’t help but light your head on fire with an acetylene torch just to avoid listening to them.
Because of their sheer numbers, many enthusiasts are consumed with the desire to pursue only those that go where no death metal band has gone before – the “progressive,” “intrepid” and “enterprising” death metal factions that throw a kitchen sink at you while you’re busy curling Doppelbocks at the bar. You experimentalists, kind sirs and madams, can go pound salt, because Denmark’s Phrenelith is here to pulverize everything back to the Paleolithic Age.
What works so well with Desolate Endscape is the fact that these crumbling cave-dwellers simply know how to death metal better than the average knuckledragger, and it’s done in a perfectly blunt 35 minutes. Hello, good morning, BOOM – you’re dead. No need to beat around the bush, unless it literally involves beating someone who’s trying to escape to miserable death.
“It sounds like that one riff 3:30 into Incantation’s “Blasphemous Creation.”” ~ Death Metal Lord #1
“It sounds like that demo that Barbed Handjob released to 150 people back in 2005.” ~ Death Metal Lord #2
Desolate Endscape sounds like death metal, Copernicus. It sounds like death metal the way death metal is supposed to sound: savage and heavier than Andre the Giant’s bar tab. It sounds like the album cover: large, catastrophic and desperate; dirty and rotting and pestilent. Sometimes the air is hot and it hurts to breathe, and sometimes you’re slogging through spoiled ash up to your knees and can hardly stand to trudge any farther. It sounds like beautiful, beautiful extinction.
Just listen to the way “Conquering Divinity” kicks off the festivities. After a few hammer strikes on the bell, you’re right into the business of having your melon crushed beneath a plummeting Acme Anvil™. A perfectly balanced production delivers huge riffs, rumbling drums and glottal vocals that sound like the Emperor of All Spiders slurping the remnants of liquified guts from a 132oz cup. Then, a motherbonker of a breakdown hits around 2:28 to help usher in a lengthy cuddle session with a tank.
That’s the overall gist. Mostly a slow-to-mid-paced pummeling, but enough peckerheads will underestimate the 900lb grizzly that can hit a surprisingly brisk clip when it’s hungry enough and they’re pedaling past like a giant chicken wing on a trail bike. Dinner time for fuzzy Phrenelith.
A little more atmosphere gets painted into the corners on the instrumental title-track, including a surprisingly felicitous (and ominous) acoustic dazzle before heading into the back four. Then it’s more of everything, including one single, solitary solo, and a closer that puts a perfectly epic, putrid feather in the cap.
Whether or not Desolate Endscape is the right fit for you depends entirely on one simple factor: do you enjoy obliterating death metal that flattens like a warhead’s hydrodynamic front, and are you tired of hearing it delivered by lunkheads who wouldn’t know Onward to Golgotha if it landed on their face at the end of a shovel. If so, Phrenelith has you clobbered.