Of late, when I spin a new death metal record for the first time, I can usually be pretty confident that I’m about to hear one of three things; a tech-death riff-salad of frenzied hyper-competence, a br00tal platter of rumbling chug/slams seemingly narrated by a drowning bullfrog, or a collection of cast-off Entombed and Dismember riffs hastily-wrapped in an trademark Swedeath buzzsaw guitar tone. Such was not the case with this release, however – with their second album Kingdom of Worms, German death metal trio Deserted Fear manage to distinguish themselves somewhat from the tide of homogeneity not by reinventing the wheel, but by using their influences as a starting point, rather than making them the band’s entire raison d’etre.
Those influences, it must be said, are both pretty familiar and are worn on the band’s sleeves – throughout Kingdom of Worms, old-school American death metal rubs shoulders with old-school Swedish death metal. Picture the murky melodicism of Dismember filtered through the groove-laden rolling thunder of latter-day Kataklysm, only without any Canadian Hyperblasts or HM2 pedal-tone shenanigans gumming up the works. Guitarist/vocalist Manuel Glatter’s vomitous roars balance lyrical legibility with sickening aggression, while he and guitarist/bassist Fabian Hildebrant throttle solid, chunky riffs from their guitars and drummer Simon Mengs hammers home each munitions belt-worth of double-kicks and every booming tom-roll with stoutly Teutonic efficiency. The production perfectly suits the material – big and beefy, balanced enough to allow what nuances there are in such unabashedly unadorned music to shine through, yet possessed of a low-end sizable enough to give Sir Mixalot palpitations. There are no ‘tech’ riffs, no pig vocals – hell, even lead guitar lines are an eyebrow-raising rarity throughout. Other than in the case of the obligatory symphonic intro and mid-album acoustic interlude, Kingdom of Worms never wavers in its mission to deliver a surfeit of lip-smackingly meaty old-school death metal riffs.
The songs are well-constructed, switching from riff to riff and varying in tempo and pace often and fluidly. You’re never more than approximately four bars from a new riff, or a shift in tempo, or some rhythmic tweak in each song’s arrangement. The band’s songwriting abilities and knack for dynamics see them doing a lot with their chosen genre’s toolset – but as assured as these songs are, there isn’t really anything in the way of a highlight track to be found on Kingdom of Worms. There are no clunkers, by any means – but there’s also nothing extraordinary here. Few death metal fans would walk away from listening to Kingdom of Worms feeling unsatisfied, though – and this only being Deserted Fear‘s second album displays great potential for future efforts.