What a perfect example of the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” or in this case, “Don’t judge an album by what the record label tells you it is”. Desultor‘s full-length debut Masters Of Hate was billed as “progressive death metal” coming out of sweden. I think we could all imagine what this would have sounded like, if it was actually swedish progressive death metal…but it isn’t.
In fact, it’s kind of hard to nail down exactly what Masters Of Hate sounds like. The very first thing you’ll notice is the almost non-existent death metal growls. This whole album is done with clean singing, alternating between traditional and almost power-metal type vocals; it’s honestly very refreshing to hear. Vocalist Markus Joha does a great job of belting out some seriously impressive noises without crossing the traditional power-metal cheesy line. Not only does Joha sing, but he’s currently the band’s only guitarist; as of right now Desultor is a two person outfit. This might have something to do with how tight the album sounds, and I’m not just talking production-wise (although that’s pretty good also). While there’s filler here or there on Masters Of Hate, for the most part the album runs through at a solid clip and at no point does it feel like it’s dragging on.
Joha’s guitar work is pretty damn good; maybe it’s because he most likely writes both the riffs and lyrics but the two never collide in a way that makes you question what’s going on and nothing ever really sounds “off”. Lyrics and guitars always intermingle and play with each other in such a way that it seems to make both sound better. Riffs alternate between traditional death metal, as well as brief splashes of black metal and thrash, and they never sound boring or lethargic. This might be one of those “sum of the whole is greater than the two pieces separately” thing but last time I checked that’s what a band was, so that’s all that matters. Drummer Michael Ibrahim manages to keep things interesting with creative fills that aren’t often present in death metal, along with a sense of not only when to go crazy on drums but also when to dial it back and let Joha’s vocals take center stage. Ibrahim does a great job walking the tightrope between very good and excess just like Joha does with vocals, and also succeeds.
Tracks like “Black Monday”, “And So We Bleed”, and “The Luxury Of Pain” prove themselves as standouts on Masters Of Hate, alternating between scathingly-fast riffs and bombastic choruses. Tracks like “The Luxury Of Pain” in particular illustrate this point quite well, and also includes a quieter more subtle section on the middle of the song coming off a solo that for once, doesn’t feel forced. One of the only problems I had with Masters Of Hate is that it sort of feels like Desultor put the album on cruise control in terms of pacing and speed; which is why quieter areas like the middle of “Luxury” stood out so much. More of those would have been nice, as it is now you might have trouble telling when one track ends and another begins if you aren’t paying close enough attention to the album (if, for example, your listening to the album while typing up a paper!). It’s always enjoyable though, so you’ll have no qualms going back a track or two to listen again. For all the good that Desultor did on this full-length debut album, there are a few clunkers on Masters Of Hate, mainly the tracks “Masters Of Hate” and “Caged”. The former suffers from a rather bad chorus that sounds like it was ripped out of a Devin Townsend album, while the latter is the only track on the album that sounds disorganized and sloppy; like they didn’t know exactly what to do with it.
Those problems are mostly overlooked when listening to the album however (except that “Masters Of Hate” chorus, man is it bad), especially when you remember that this is their debut album. There is some really good stuff on this album; and it would be a shame if the genre label turns people off and causes them to dismiss it. I urge everyone who read this review to at least try and listen to this album; it’s not just another Soilwork or Scar Symmetry clone coming out of Sweden, so you have to give them at least that much credit right?