REVIEW: Desolace – “Photosynthesis”

There are defining moments in every genre. A song or a record can change the course of everything to come after, whether it be through the amount of strings on a guitar, the production standards held, or changes in song writing approach. Periphery’s Periphery I was one such pivotal moment, soon followed by another, in form of Born of OsirisThe Discovery. Here at ItDjents, the legacy of such releases has been heard again and again, with varying degrees of success, imitation and innovation. German quintet Desolace are one of the many progressive deathcore/metalcore groups that spawned from the combined legacy of these two records. However, on their debut full-length, Photosynthesis, the group demonstrate that they have moved past the hero-worship heard on 2014’s Hopebringer EP and into a sound fully their own. Photosynthesis will be available come tomorrow.

Though classical orchestration and metal have long been bedfellows, the incorporation of these influences into djent is fairly new. As such, I was instantly captivated by the symphonic and electronic elements implemented into the title track, an instrumental piece featuring a haunting guest performance from pianist/composer Mark Moody. Setting an epic, sweeping tone for the record, the piece flows into “Saturation”; said song starts with an understated melodic figure before being sidelined by devastating, dynamic shifts and hooky synths akin to Veil of Maya or Circle of Contempt. With dizzyingly complex rhythms and an impressive array of guitar techniques, Desolace quickly establish themselves as competition for their contemporaries.

“Red” features Julien Bride, who lends some hooky yet gritty vocal hooks to the diverse screams of Desolace vocalist Kriss Jakob. The song itself is somewhat limited in terms of instrumental diversity, primarily centered on polyrhythmic chugs. Thankfully, this approach is not indicative of the entire record, as proven by “Green”, which opens with catchy lead lines and well-constructed riffing alongside Jakob’s unique, pitched screams. Marco Bayati absolutely shines on the track, deftly wielding blistering shredding as well as melodic taste and nuance.

With a clean tapping passage introduced before exploding into unpredictable rhythms and dazzling lead work, “Blue” starts like an early Animals As Leaders track. One of the heaviest tracks on the record, its mid-tempo riffing and unique melodic sense occupy quite a distinct place in progressive metalcore, despite the aforementioned comparison. In addition to its sheer brutality, the song manages to capture an achingly emotional resonance often lacking in the intricacy and sterility of modern metal. The intensity continues after the beautiful Andy McKee-esque interlude “The Process”: the merciless yet catchy “Contrast” is equal parts The Afterimage and After The Burial. Spiraling deeper and darker, Photosynthesis closes with its most chaotic track, the fittingly titled “Shade”.

Photosynthesis sees Desolace expanding upon everything they established on their 2014 EP. Their instrumental prowess has developed a mature, melodic edge bolstered by vastly improved songwriting and crystalline production. The diversity of instrumentals, from the title track’s orchestral bombast to the acoustic fingerstyle arrangement of “Process” and wondrous progression of “Vibrance”, lends an elegant pacing to the energetic record. It is the choice to incorporate these stylings that sets Desolace apart from their peers; I would be curious to hear the group develop this symphonic and acoustic experimentation into more fleshed-out compositions in the future. Having had the pleasure of listening through this record on multiple occasions over a lengthy period of time, it holds onto its passion and inventiveness after multiple listens, although certain sections do still fall into oft-used metalcore tropes. Desolace do not reinvent djent, but Photosynthesis is so well-realized and masterfully delivered that it will be one of the best releases in the genre this year.



Score: 9/10

Notable Tracks: “Blue”; “Shade”; “Photosynthesis”

FFO: Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, Circle of Contempt, The Afterimage, Jason Richardson

Photosynthesis will be released tomorrow! You can pre-order it on Bandcamp and follow Desolace on Facebook, as well as YouTube. Purchases also come with instrumental versions of all tracks.

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