At the best of times, death metal can be a difficult genre to get excited about. Sure, there have been plenty of albums that have had some enormous quality to them in the last few years, from bands both old and new, but the general trend seems to be a sound that can thrive without having the really change or break from a rigid rule set. And thus, no matter the hype behind them, death metal bands don’t tend to spark much in the way of excitement, and for a genre whose primary (and sometimes sole) weapon is raw, uncompromising aggression, that’s as counterintuitive as it comes. But when it comes to Deserted Fear, the current recipients of the push forward to bigger things, they’ve been releasing full-length albums since 2012, and the fact that their fourth is the first to have this groundswell under it implies either a major step-up compared to the first three, or the metaphorical roulette wheel landing on an arbitrary name to bet all the chips on.

And really, if it was a case of either of those two options being the final, definitive answer, it would most likely be the former, as Drowned By Humanity is an immensely solid album from top to bottom. That’s about all it can really be described as though, as while Deserted Fear maintain a level of tightness and conciseness that’s hugely admirable throughout, it can all feel a little one-note at times, lacking even some degree of diversity that could make this stand out so much more. As much as the sweeping, opulent introductory track hints at true enormity to come (and to be fair, in terms of sound, Deserted Fear certainly have an incredible knack for blowing their size of their sound up to truly monstrous proportions), it can run out of steam in terms of real exhilaration, and while the quality remains largely intact through this, the momentum can take some serious hits.

But even then, it’s hard to complain too much when Drowned By Humanity is as ardent as it is about elevating its creators above the regular death metal doldrums and into much more auspicious territory. That’s in no small part due to the surprising amount of melody here, borrowing in more than a few instances from thrash and traditional metal to give the likes of The Final Chapter and Welcome To Reality a far crisper, sharper sound. The bite is still there – Manuel Glatter has the fangs and the growl to hold his own even amongst the best of them – but there’s a slower, more deliberate sense of groove that’s elevated much higher than searing riffage, and the size of this material really shines because of it. The oft-restrictive death metal shackles have been well and truly cast off here, and for an album that’s supposedly consigned to more extreme climes, the thick, beefy execution feels more suited to a Metallica album overall, and Deserted Fear truly are able to make it their own. Of course, there will be some who won’t be best pleased by a claim like that, but as far as capturing a brilliantly dynamic and fulfilling metal experience goes, Deserted Fear manage to fill all criteria.

That does feel like something of a hollow judgement though, especially when an album as no-frills as this will likely be washed away in the deluge of more highly anticipated albums in the coming year. It’s an inevitability, but it’s also a rather unfair one, especially when Drowned By Humanity has a lot to enjoy as what is possibly as close to a gateway death metal album as has risen to prominence in a while. It’s far from the best on either the death or thrash side, but there’s a lot to like and appreciate about an album that takes such a recognisable brand of heaviness and does something with it on this scale. Even if it doesn’t stick around for as long as it should, the short-term impact could be something truly significant.

7/10

For fans of: Entombed, Skeletal Remains, Grave
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘Drowned By Humanity’ by Deserted Fear is released on 8th February on Century Media Records.

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