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Desert Lord – Symbols

Desert Lord
Symbols
by Gary Hernandez at 16 November 2020, 4:50 PM

DESERT LORD is a Stoner Doom Metal band out of Helsinki, Finland. It’s been six years since we last heard from these lads, but on September 24, 2020 they released their second full-length album, “Symbols.” For those keeping track, that’s one EP and two LPs in ten years. While that might be a slow pace, there has been zero lineup changes. So, we don’t have a lot of material from this band, but you can track a steady linear evolution in their sound. Where DESERT LORD’s previous releases were raw and untamed, this one is inquisitive but still visceral. Clearly the band came into their own during their time away from the studio.

Lyrically, “Symbols” is darkly introspective and personal giving the album more of a Doom feel than Stoner. In fact, theme-wise the only traditional Stoner track is the title-track, “Symbols,” which is about cosmic lore and space/time travelers and deserts . . . because it’s always gotta be deserts. If you’ve heard DESERT LORD’s previous releases, you’ll find a more refined, more diverse performance with this album. In my estimation, it’s easily their best album to date.

Musically, “Symbols” is a kind of Psychedelic Doom. There are moments of bluesy boot stomping interspersed with thoughtful progressions, though never quite Prog. The album is well-mixed with clean separation of each instrument. Roni’s bass work is sophisticated and nomad; Mika seems comfortable across multiple styles from groovy to bellicose; Janne is a riff-meister and is at his best when he has room and time to play, like “Sinner’s Playground” and “Keys To The Peace.” Sampo’s gravelly vocals are reminiscent of Dave Sherman (EARTHRIDE) and are clear and articulate across all tempos.

Best tracks are “Symbols,” “Damage Dealt,” “Arsonist,” “Sinner’s Playground” and “Keys To The Peace.” One of the things I really like about this album is the variety. “Keys To The Peace” for instance starts with this psych Jim Morrison groove but at 1:06 drops it into first gear and punches it. From there on out the band oscillates between chill and kill, making this one the most repeatable tracks on the album.

Final and opening tracks usually say a lot about an album and what was on the artists’ mind. The opener, “Symbols,” is the classic Stoner track — a great salvo to kick the album off. The closer, “Close The Curtain,” is a morose and somber rumination. The acoustic guitar accompaniment to the clean but gritty vocals is a statement unto itself. This track is a reminder that the album was written by real humans who, despite the metalhead stereotypes perpetuated by media and mainstream, feel the gravity and enormity of existence every bit as much as the rest of us. It comes across as a serious reflection of a felt life.

Final verdict gives this album serious hails and horns. I just know there’s a story about this band’s musical growth since 2014. Maybe it’s hard times and tragedy, maybe it’s just lots of time practicing and gigging, but either way “Symbols” is a fine Stoner Doom artifact.


Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. Symbols
  2. Damage Dealt
  3. The Arsonist
  4. Sinner's Playground
  5. The Funeral
  6. Keys to the Peace
  7. Close the Curtains
Lineup:
Roni Dahlgren – Bass
Mika Pokkinen – Drums
Janne Kuosmanen – Guitars
Sampo Riihimäki – Vocals
Record Label: Under a Serpent Sun Records
     


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