Review Summary: The infamous Southampton crew bring their A-game with their first LP; but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
If you've been going to gigs in the present hardcore climate, then you'll probably have heard of Desolated. If you've never heard of them before reading this review then I shall regale you with an anecdote regarding the first time I experienced them, so as to give you an accurate depiction of their music.
I was at The Well in Leeds back in 2011 as part of an all day gig, the first 6 or so bands largely originating from nearby towns and cities. I was unaware at the time that Desolated were on the line-up, despite my friends (who were largely into more hardcore music, whilst I preferred metal - this gig being an introduction of sorts) insisting that they would be the best band of the night. Time passed and later on, whilst sitting by the bar; we heard the start of slow and heavy chords being played in the other room; causing the walls to vibrate. Immediately we rushed in to find the entire crowd split in two like a panini and jesus ***ing christ; it was like the Pied Piper had set his pipe to the 'murder' setting; spin kicks and 'crowdkill' galore. This continuing for the rest of their set, during which the vocalist Paul Williams crowdsurfed clumsily to the back of the crowd before being dropped on his head by the one person holding him up directly in front of me.
So, yeah. Desolated are one of 'those' bands. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as it definitely proves that they can be a tour de force playing live and this LP shows a large part of that; however their first attempt at putting out a full length doesn't live up to the expectations of anyone wanting a technically proficient or particularly memorable release.
I suppose that Desolated play their own style of hardcore (now emulated by many upcoming UK bands). Desolated tend to lure in the listener with acoustic and intimidating melodic chords that work well in creating atmosphere, some nice moments are present on this LP as a result of this approach; the melodic moment in 'Breathe' acting as break for tempo to pick up & the final verse/crowd chant of 'Blasphemy'. However, for the most part, the playtime on this release is occupied by a lot of down-tempo and heavy riffs, often preceded by reverberating patterns of melodic notes and slow, ritualistic drumming to 'build' the anticipation of the impending riffs. There almost seems to be a drone or doom element thrown into the tracks, particularly in 'Betrayal' & 'Spirit And Serpent' that are interesting but don't really shine because of Desolated's overall down-tempo approach. Drums take a fairly simple role in this LP as a result, not doing much beyond the typical two-step pattern or 'side to side' slowed fill. There are some moments when the drums pick up a quicker pace and show a glimmer of unseen skill, such as in 'Gods Eyes'; however before long we're back to the same old slow drum pattern. I would say that the guitar is largely supported by the drums, and this role is what's holding the drums back; forever bound to a slow and relatively uninspired pattern for the rest of the band to pile on.
The guitarist's handiwork is primarily composed of the slow and crushing riff patterns that are really satisfying in songs like 'Betrayal' & 'Breathe', but only ever get interesting or technical when the melodic interludes of the songs that have them are reached. For the rest of the time, it's a positive ride with the initially nicely distorted riffs until you realise that the general down-tempo sound is absorbing all of the songs into one huge very alike set of riffs. I think Desolated realised this was the case and inserted the two instrumental tracks 'Psalm' & 'Psalm II' in order to break this up, but they largely sound like a part of a song that they couldn't fit on; or an intro they had saved for another song; which is merely torn off and left here. They don't stand out as a result, when was potential for a more experimental venture or at least an opportunity to show off their other influences. I'm sure that Desolated aren't exactly a 'beatdown hardcore' band like No Zodiac or Nasty, however they sure do love writing riffs that mimic them until they actually get to the real beatdown - often being the finale to each song. This unfortunately takes away the impact of the actual beatdown significantly. On a whole, the guitarists appear largely to just stick to what they've first written and go from there. It's not bad, but not great either. Probably best for the first 3 listens before they get a bit distasteful and repetitive.
On the vocal front, Paul Williams opts for the continued anti-religion lyrical stance; incorporating some decent imagery into them, 'These wounds cease to bleed, I will never rest in peace.' but after the first few songs, this becomes pretty boring up until the pretty much defined moments for a crowd chant in the lyrics just before a beatdown. His style of spitting this blasphemous venom is through shouts - definitively hardcore, but feeling a bit out of place at times. The lack of distortion in his vocal approach makes his anti-religious cries in 'Breathe' & 'On The Cross' a lot less impressive. The vocalist of 'sheffield shred' metallic hardcore band Malevolence makes an appearance on the track 'Gods Eyes', and adds a little more to the effect of the music, however never really hitting any significant stride in contrast to Paul's vocals until the final beatdown line 'If I could see God with my eyes, he'd be on his ***ing knees.' It's hard to say whether or not we can take Paul's lyrics to their full extent as a serious anti-religious statement with the music to boot - largely simply down to the vocal effort on this album.
Verse Of Judas isn't a bad album, and it shows potential for any future ventures that Desolated might partake in; but they must learn from their mistakes if they ever wish to expand to a greater audience beyond the 'crowdkill crew'.