Album: A New Realm of Misery
When a band announces new material after any break—be it an intentional hiatus, a presumed “break up” or just a prolonged quiescence—that material is instantly put to a higher degree of scrutiny. Sure, superficially, fans of the band are “glad you’re back!” and social media buzz is generally favorable…
Until the first track drops.
Then the debating starts, pitchforks come out, keyboard warriors emerge locked and loaded, ready to do battle—unless, of course, you’re the UK’s resident beatdown hardcore masterminds, Desolated. Emerging after a two-going-on-three year break, the band are back with five tracks of pure fury and pain, aptly titled A New Realm of Misery. Combining jaw-dropping metallic influence with the same panache for pissed-off heaviness that defined their works Disorder of Mind and The End, Desolated prove that even after a couple years with their heels up, they’re still capable of kicking in the heads of practically every contemporary like-minded act that has emerged in their wake.
From the first licks of A New Realm of Misery, Desolated’s peerless ability to blend metallic leads into a pummeling beatdown hardcore backbone is, once again, unquestioned. “A New Realm of Misery,” the record’s lead single, brings four minutes of fury, with drums that run the gamut from fast and dancy to slow and trudging. Likewise, “War” is similar, with a thick bass that rumbles atop the fast-paced percussion that gives listeners something quick, easy and fun to get their two-step on with. Percussionist Joel Scott shines throughout the EP, with “Still Breathing but Not Alive” and “More than Agony” serving as two of his strongest tracks. Meanwhile, “War” sees Scott working excellently with bassist Tony Evans, who brings a bouncy but dense low end to the entirety of Desolated’s come-back release. Where the group’s metallic twist on beatdown-infused chaos truly shines, however, stems from the work of guitarists Drew Harper and Rich Unsworth. Together, the duo wreak pure havoc, starting from the opening segments of “A New Realm of Misery” through the closing chugs of “More than Agony.” Between the opening and closing track, Harper and Unsworth let loose with a cacophony of crushing breakdowns, crowd-rallying build-up moments and climactic leads, each track bringing a new and varied level of intensity to the table. “War” is just as it sounds—an all out assault—while “Still Breathing But Not Alive” is more balanced, in the same way “A New Realm of Misery” is. Altogether, Harper, Unsworth and the entirety of Desolated’s instrumental arsenal have brought distilled, potent and concentrated brutality straight to the listener’s head with A New Realm of Misery.
Where Desolated are likely most famous, however, is by their frontman, Paul Williams. In short, very few bands employ the same vocal style Williams does, and of those bands, even less—practically none, even—sound quite the same. Ever since the band’s refined sound on Disorder of Mind, Williams’ voice has been the bread and butter of Desolated’s dynamic—the same dynamic that emerges on A New Realm of Misery. In short, every song sees Williams right back at it, doing what he does best, and each song sees him drawing from a wellspring of ache and strife as fuel for his incendiary shouts and screams. “Still Breathing But Not Alive” stands at A New Realm’s lyrical juggernaut, while the record’s title cut ties with “More Than Agony” for catchiest and most abrasive. Williams’ work on a New Realm of Misery is right up to snuff with his previous efforts—and for fans of Desolated, not much more could even be asked.
There are a lot of good beatdown hardcore bands—and many of them hail from the UK, just as Desolated does—however, in hearing the return of this malevolent quintet, it’s become apparent just how different good is from great. A New Realm of Misery is a masterful display of beatdown that is both catchy and crushing—heavy but also carefully constructed—ushering in a new era of misery, yes, but also of Desolated’s continued dominion over beatdown hardcore.
For Fans Of: Street Soldier, Bodysnatcher, Cold Hard Truth, the whole BDHW Label
By: Connor Welsh