It was four years ago that Israeli dark epic metal band Desert sparked ears and imagination with debut album Star Of Delusive Hopes and now the Tel-Aviv sextet returns with its highly anticipated successor, the even more dramatic and enthralling, not forgetting enjoyable, Never Regret. It is an album which explores more potently the uniqueness within the invention which marked out their first full-length release and like its predecessor, it too has moments which excite more than others but unrelentingly the new proposition makes you sit up and revel in its imaginative adventure.
Formed in 2002 by guitarist Max Shafranski, Desert began luring attention, as its line-up grew and stabilised, with the demo The Way To Honor in 2004, though it was debut EP Prophecy Of The Madman which was the spark to stronger and broader acclaim. Another line-up change brought fresh blood and imagination into the band, this soon in evidence upon the 2011 released Star Of Delusive Hopes. There was not the originality to it which now spreads across Never Regret but it had all the essences to captivate, something which again has escalated on its successor.
The release opens with Chasing the Prey, a brief instrumental full of portentous shadows, rhythmic incitement, and enticing harmonies aligned to brewing danger. The track sets the atmosphere and scene perfectly, though it could have done with another minute such the enjoyment. Its departure heralds the gateway for the excellent Assassin’s Fate to stride through with an eager and aggressive cantor. The keys of Oleg Aryutkin instantly cast an almost cinematic colouring to the song, evocatively soaking the sinew sculpted beats of drummer Assaf Markowitz and the tantalising guitar enterprise of Sergei Nemichenitser and Max Shafranski. In no time it is a transfixing flight with its narrative and heart revealed by the distinctive tones of vocalist Alexei Raymar. He has a delivery which for some might take time to adjust to but his presence is almost that of a warrior in the context of the album, a raw yet accomplished protagonist as integral an element in the landscape as the sounds.
The wonderfully turbulent mix of heavy and epic metal makes way for Son of a Star, it too carrying a climatic air and body to its presence. The bass of Sergei Dmitrik provides a predatory lure against the initial swirling wash of keys whilst jagged riffs collude with lashing rhythms to bring greater intensity into the immersive embrace of the track; a warrior breath and technical enterprise merging to ignite and invigorate the lively crusade. With a great guitar solo from guest Alex Zvulun another potent tempting, the song passes on ears to the mellower though no less intimidating atmosphere of The Wolf’s Attack. Initial orchestral caresses soon evolve and strengthen into more aggressive, at times almost punkish endeavour. Bewitching melodies and billowing orchestration get magnetically involved too, the song creating a volatile canvas for the imagination to explore, with potent suggestiveness offered by another scorching guitar solo.
The album’s title track brings a familiarity with it next, though it is hard to say why. It just feels like something heard many times before but it does not dilute its success and appeal. In fact it only increases the richness of the adventure in song and album, allowing a more accessible union between it and the listener swiftly becoming a major moment within Never Regret.
Zvulun returns to add extra rich hues to The Road to You straight after, as also vocalist Infy who joins the evocative ballad. Her voice becomes a serenading light in the increasingly explosive drama and tempestuous theatre of the track, and though the song does not match the potency of its predecessors there is something seriously compelling to it just as there is to 1812, a track which might not quite excite as those before but is still a riveting and increasingly tempting provocation. Featuring Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear on vocals, the song constantly twists and roars across its alluring proposal, musically and vocally.
Flying Dutchman instantly ignites ears and appetite with the violin skills of Merry Ann Genin, her melodic flames gypsy like in tone and a captivating temper to the savage presence and intent of bass and riffs. The song is outstanding, carrying a folkish swagger and lure in its midst before making way for the orchestral elegance of Final Journey which continues to seduce even when erupting into a more rugged, and in the case of the bass, carnivorous persuasion. Both tracks in their individual ways are unpredictable and enthralling with certain parts creative genius and always a highly satisfying enjoyment.
The dark predatory lures of Imperial Eagle, a song with melodic and orchestral flags waving magnetically within its imposing turmoil, gives another impressive and seriously exciting proposition before Invincible brings Never Regret to a mighty close. The track is sinew and grace in one formidable and appealing conflict, a battle cry and celebration simultaneously.
As much as Star Of Delusive Hopes impressed it is easily outshone by the majesty and masterful creation of Never Regret. It is a release still suggesting there is more to come before Desert find their full potential but with great offerings like this we can wait.
Never Regret is available now @ https://desertband.bandcamp.com/album/never-regret
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