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Den: Iron Desert

No matter what I say about this album, it will never be as good as the band’s own description. Here it is: “A meth addled modern pirate’s fix can only be quelled with two things: amphetamines and slit throats. Den is here to provide the soundtrack for this kind of scumbag.” That’s pretty accurate, but if you are imagining a crazed and high-tempo experience, you might want to think again. You see, Den’s music is not about representing that pirate’s movements but about capturing the moments when his worst actions are carried out. To shift things around a bit, let’s just say that this album is about those moments where everything is lost, and no hope remains. I’m not talking about a temporary setback, that all-too-familiar moment when the hero realizes his vulnerability and then formulates the perfect world-saving plan. No, this is actually the moment when the hero loses, and the world actually falls into the hands of the enemy. That’s the moment Den is interested in; if you want to hear what that moment sounds like, then you might want to listen to Iron Desert.

My attempts to describe this album probably made some listeners turn away while others may be wondering if I’ve ever really listened to extreme metal. Even though I realize that lots of bands traffic in despair and hopelessness, I have no problem claiming that this album is as dark as it claims to be. I would also say that the band’s interest in musical despair is part of their charm. I’d also suggest that their weird balance between doom and noise and madness is also terrific.

For those unfamiliar with Den, the band has three members, Adam Harris (vocals), Ian Plirtola (drums) and Dylan Piskula (bass). All of them make a solid contribution to this album, but it’s safe to say Piskula’s bass gives things an extra edge. If you listen to “Bones and Flies,” for example, you’ll hear the way his bass wanders about restlessly, never quite certain where to end up. At times, the bass seems headed in one direction and then stops, shifts, or wanders in ways that bring to mind that endless sense of despair this album creates. As good as “Bones and Flies” is, however, you definitely need to check out the title track “Iron Desert.” That’s a mammoth track, the one that signals the impending arrival of the enemy’s armies. It also has a sweet riff that you won’t soon forget.

I’m focusing on the closing tracks, mostly because I thought they were so good. Not all albums close well, but this one says goodbye in all the right ways. However, you don’t want to listen only to the way the band ends things, especially when you can hear tracks like “Taste for Blood” or “Svalbard.” The former brings all the band’s strengths together for a tight and despairing few minutes of music. It’s one of the album’s highlights and is well worth checking out. The latter is a bit longer, but if you take enough time with it, you’ll discover that Den is pretty good at stretching things out. I especially liked the moments at just under the six-minute mark when screeching sounds move alongside the bass in ways that suggest very bad things are getting closer and closer. If you like those, check out “Pyrite,” the album’s opener. It’s less interested in noise, but it shows off the band’s doomier side with just enough up-tempo drive to pull you out of your despair.

Some people call this style of music rhythm and gloom and it’s easy to see why. The music is bottom heavy, depressing, and occasionally overwhelming, but it’s also solid and cool and powerful. It’s also the best meth-addled pirate soundtrack ever made. This is easily one of my favorite albums of the year. Highly recommended.

Track Listing:
1. Pyrite
2. Entire Mire
3. Svalbard
4. Taste for Blood
5. Graves Below the Tide
6. Bones Flies
7. Iron Desert

Added: November 18th 2019
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 891
Language: english

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