If like The RR you thought the debut album Forked Tongue from UK heavy blues metallers Desert Storm was the dogs meat and two veg than their new album is going to excite places you never knew existed. Whereas the previous album from the Oxford quintet also boasted an avalanche of heavily boned riffs and sludge thick blues grooves not forgetting equally demanding rhythms, Horizontal Life expands it all to hungrier heights whilst drenching the results in a fire of passion and striking invention. The band has grown so impressively between albums, the new release holding a maturity and enterprise which makes its excellent predecessor look almost lightweight in comparison.
Formed in 2007, Desert Storm took little time in finding a greedy appetite locally for their formidably pressing sounds going on to breed a similar and larger following and hunger across the UK through their impressive live performances and festival appearances. They have also shared stages with the likes of Orange Goblin, Taint, Weedeater, Zoroaster, CKY, Winnebago Deal, Firebird, and Black Spiders across the years to ever increasing acclaim and swiftly growing fanbase. Forked Tongue added its impressive weight to their sturdy rise but with the sheer quality and brute force temptation of Horizontal Life you can only assume the widest recognition is waiting to embrace the thunderous quintet.
Released via Blindsight Records, the album opens with the charismatic and contagious Word to the Wise Man, a track which takes off from where last album left off, its care free swagger and magnetic lure of inciting thick riffs and crisp rhythms instantly addictive. The vocals of Matt Ryan are as grisly and throaty as ever whilst the bass of Chris Benoist brings its own primal breath to stalk the ear within the fires of sonic excellence from guitarists Chris White and Ryan Cole. The blues fuelled lining equally excites the senses whilst the potent call of the guitar within the song is a French kiss for the ear.
Both Shadow of an Eagle and Astral Planes leap upon the passions with stirring craft and exciting melodic flames, the first off of a impacting spike of drums from Elliot Cole which sets up the strolling blaze of searching riffs and sonic temptation all again with a hooked persuasion which ignites energy and captivation. It is a scintillating romp with a familiar air to its curvature of infectious sounds and rich grooves as well as compelling enticement from its thoughtfully sculpted variation to gait and direction. Again the vocals of Ryan bring a rich whiskey breath to the encounter whilst the guitar solo sears the senses gleefully. The second of the pair again holds the ace card of being new yet a returning friend to the passions in many ways and like the previous songs commands hungry affection and commitment to its tremendous provocation.
The following No Slave to Master increases the heaviness and rapacious sound, its Orange Goblin/ Down like stance an air sucking beast coated in shadows and venom musically and vocally which has the need to devour the listener without offering the easier to digest swing and grooves of other tracks. Instead it unveils a light sucking intensity which is just as fascinating and magnetic, as does its successor Mr Strongbatch, a track equipped with carnivorous riffs and punchy rhythms. Its inviting groove does ignite a heat and barbed welcome which is impossible to be ignored and again has a confidence to its stroll which borders of aural cockiness which is irrepressible.
Both Enslaved in the Icy Tundra and Lunar Domes unleash corrosive riffs and an intensity which plenty of metal bands can only dream of, with the energy and vocal spite to match, whilst the second of the two from a bass driven aside, creates a passion exploiting mesmeric and abrasively smothering ending which is outstanding. It also marks the point where there is a shift in the album, Desert Storm exploring more of their progressive/psychedelic side than ever before. Firstly Titan steps forward within a sludge toned swamp of sound which shifts into a cavernous beckoning of noise Ryan growls the narrative with even stronger shadows in tow. The riffs still dictate the course of the song whilst a slow burning groove makes its declaration but once things slip away into a haunting evocative ambience, a wonderful exploration of band, imagination, and sonic beauty is unveiled. It is a startling and enthralling joy with a muscular finish to cement its impressive contribution to the now in place rapture for the album.
The release does not stop there as the serpentine treat of Shenzhen next twists and writhes all over thoughts, emotions, and the senses with reptilian chills, sonic ferocity, and wolverine rabidity before handing over to the best track on the album in Gaia. The song is pure sonic alchemy, a pungent soak of southern heat, eastern shimmering, western harmonies, and tribal instinctiveness. It is glorious, a masterpiece of aurally expressive songwriting and exhilarating imagination, and the undeniable proof of just how far and expansive Desert Storm can push themselves if they so wish.
Closing with a return to the uncompromising energies and trunk thick riffing in the Mastodon spiced Hofmann and the mercilessly contagious Scorpion to ensure further exalted satisfaction, Horizontal Life is a major triumph not only for the band but UK melodic metal/rock. It is explosive and impossibly impressive with Desert Storm putting a great many established signed bands to shame, long may they continue. A must have release.
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