Metal may have sprouted from just a few places on the globe, but it’s been decades since it became a truly global phenomenon. As it grew and spread, clearly identifiable sounds and scenes popped up all over the place—Florida and Swedish death metal, Maryland doom, Bay Area thrash, Norwegian black metal, etc. etc. and so on and so forth. Of course, we’re many years since the height of these and countless other scenes, during which time a whole lot of smashing has been done to geographic musical barriers.
Luckily, they also seem to understand that history, much to the benefit of third album The Deviant. The Opeth influence is the most dominant, as the album is nearly 50 minutes of light/dark, soft/heavy contrast, long song structures, and refined, technical playing. Even the soloing ‒ of which there is thankfully plenty ‒ carries a very smooth, Åkerfeldty vibe. Vocals are delivered in both sung and harsh forms, but the cleans are more passive and serene than soulful, and the harshes range from almost angsty screams to full gutturals (“The Purest One” also makes great use of male/female harmonies). Riffs also take on a lot more sleek melodeathness, with plenty of hammer-pull lines and the types of intense, thrashy attacks ‒ such as that heard in the closing title track ‒ giving off a strong Dark Tranquillity vibe.
So even if the band does a much more than admirable job when playing the homage game, they never sound exactly like any one of their Swedish heroes. Another area in which Descend carves a bit of their own personality is through the album’s varying emotional delivery. During some passages ‒ such as during the quieter parts of “Blood Moon” ‒ the band sounds almost pastoral and content. By contrast, much of the duration of “Wallow” finds them hinting at a greater menace just below the surface, but they only allow the true rage to surface briefly at a few select moments. Most of the song is a deliberate but gorgeous exploration of somber moods and reflection.
The main sticking point listeners might have with The Deviant is that it clearly stands on shoulders that have been stood upon many times before. And while that is certainly a valid point, Descend’s approach to this particular mix of prog, extremity, and melodicism is just so damned pleasant to hear for every second it’s playing. Even if The Deviant was pure Opeth worship (which it isn’t), it would be one of the better examples since Gwynbleidd dropped Nostalgia in 2009 and subsequently went MIA. If your appetite for several things Swedish simply can’t be sated, Descend has you covered.