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Desert – Fortune Favors the Brave Award winner

Desert
Fortune Favors the Brave
by Rachel Montgomery at 13 August 2019, 8:37 PM

A war concept album is nothing new for Heavy Metal, but I haven’t heard one that touches on wars in the desert. DESERT is an Israeli band that is a part of a genre they call “War Metal,” Melodic Metal that focuses on war themes.

Fix Bayonets” opens the album with a strong warlike ambiance. Pounding, steady drums give way to an ominous war horn, breaking into an intense, machine-gun riff. It caught my attention and is one of the most powerful thematic elements I’ve heard on an album. The vocalist is operatic and the call-and-response in the chorus reinforces the war themes of the song and album. The chaotic guitar solo has frantic sweeps and electronic elements that keep it in a frenzy.

My one complaint is a recurring motif on the album, and I’m dubbing it “Videogame symphonics”. It’s getting a name because it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, nor will it be the last. I’m naming it for every eight-bit videogame soundtrack I heard growing up because when it hits, I feel like I’m jumping on turtles or killing vampires. Sometimes, it works, other times, like here, it can take away form the thematic elements of the album and make them feel more like a videogame and less like an oncoming war.

The narration in the beginning of “Sons of War” is interesting, sounding like a mother talking to her son. The symphonics play a larger role, but it’s not as distracting here. The chorus in the chorus gives the song a dirge vibe and later, an avenging angel feel.

Operation Thunderbolt” creates a stealth ambiance by employing a slow buildup of an intro and then switching from slower, creeping melodies straight into onslaughts of thrashing guitars. Softer verses give way to louder choruses onto a mighty guitar solo. It works for this song and I’m impressed by the techniques and thematic combo.

The title track is full of celestial, soaring notes and is an overall pumped-up song. The videogame symphonics work here. The more guttural tone in the second verse is interesting, but I think it would have been better if he went all the way and employed complete cookie monster vocals. The guitar solo is completely videogame symphonics, but here, I don’t mind as much.

My Black Flag” sounds like Pirate Metal. The accordion and chorus in the intro are bouncy, fun, and epic. The lyrics are written like a shanty, and bonus points: they mention treasure. The videogame symphonics are toned down (except in the solo), and overall, it’s an exciting song despite the dark lyrical content.

Hajdul’s Revenge” has obvious Middle Eastern overtones with a flute interspersed with war horns creating a foreboding intro. The intro lasts a minute and forty-five seconds and when the vocals hit, they continue this sword-and-sandal ambiance. The eastern-sounding instrumentals juxtapose the warlike lyrics in a fascinating way, and the guitar solo is an actual guitar solo, no electronics.

The rolling drums in “I Gave You A Kingdom” go into traditional guitars. Multiple singing styles are used in a way that reminds me of SYSTEM OF A DOWN - the different vocal styles are used to pronounce discord and bring attention to real-world, political issues. The strong chorus gives the song a holy vow feeling, and the 1,000 days feels like a veiled allusion to 1001 Arabian Nights.

We Were Solders” really heightens the videogame symphonics in the intro but gives way to a soft piano in the first verse. It leads to a solemn, anthemic chorus highlighting soldiers. The motif lyrics stands out: “the gates of Hell are open, but not for me, for we were soldiers and we were young.” It’s haunting, thought-provoking and stays with you through the song.

Blood on the Sand” is the climatic song of the concept album: the emperor of the desert is overthrown by his solders, tired of being used as cannon fodder. The strong chorus as a triumphant vengeance motif is in full force here thanks to the harmonies in the song. The guitar solo is more chaotic.

As a closer, “Symbol to Believe” is slow and strong. There’s more piano, howling guitars, and thematically, it’s a good closer, introducing hope through symbolism. The black crow is an excellent motif for death, but also as a hope for new life. The guitar solo hammers the latter home, as the notes sound like a fall of rain on an album that’s mostly been spent in the desert.

Overall, this is an incredibly intelligent concept album with strong lyrical and instrumental motifs. The one criticism I have is the overuse of symphonics, especially ones that sound like a videogame and weakens the war themes in my opinion. Despite that, it’s a strong, thematic album and it was well done.

Songwriting: 9
Production: 8
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Fix Bayonets
2. Sons of War
3. Operation Thunderbolt
4. Fortune Favors the Brave
5. My Black Flag
6. Hajduk’s Revenge
7. I Gave You a Kingdom
8. We Were Soldiers
9. Blood on the Sand
10. Symbol to Believe
Lineup:
Alexei Raymar – Vocals
Sergei Metalheart – Guitars
Sergei Dmitrik – Bass
Oleg Aryutkin – Keyboards
Assaf Markowitz – Drums
Record Label: Irond
     


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