Desultory, “Counting to Infinity” (2010)

Desultory, "Counting Our Scars"

Desultory, “Counting Our Scars”

Given that virtually every metal band from the early ’90s whose members are yet living has decided to reunite, it’s no surprise that death metal cum rollers (but let’s not talk about that) Desultory have also thrown their hat into the ring. Their newest record bears the disconcertingly angsty title Counting Our Scars, but lays all fears of modernization to rest with a raw, popping snare, vintage vocals that fans of Tompa will adore, and a charmingly amateurish logo of old. And though the arrangements may be a bit more straightforward and the refrains a little snappier than in the old days, three out of the four original members ensure that the hooks are as tightly packed as ever. In short, this is what The Haunted ought to have sounded like, back when someone, anyone, still had faith in them. Headbangers unite.

But wait — isn’t Sickening Vaults about unearthing the cold corpses of old instead of pandering to the new? Yes. The reason Desultory’s new record earns any mention in these chambers is simple: their back catalogue, Into Eternity in particular. Long before the name was co-opted by a preening cabal of Canadians, Into Eternity called to mind ravenous, thrashing, Swedish death metal that presaged the above named and, most notably, death-thrash titans The Crown by several years. Indeed, listening to Desultory’s ‘Tears’, one could be forgiven for thinking it was from the Deathrace King sessions – a record that wouldn’t be released for almost 10 years more. And although Counting Our Scars has a distinctly Slaughter of the Soul vibe, it was Desultory playing tight thrashing death metal while At the Gates were still convulsing horrifically on The Red in the Sky is Ours Indeed, Desultory were always their own masters, sometimes even to their detriment, and their name must endure in its own right. This new record may not burnish their name any brighter than it already was, but at the least should shine a greater light upon their legacy.

Desultory

Dawn in the Eternal Forest

In some circles, the not-quite-household name of Dawn is as highly regarded as that other mid-90s Swedish black metal band that starts with a ‘D’ (hint: not Dark Funeral). Dawn’s 1997 LP Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) is a maelstrom of strophic, almost apocalyptic black metal that falls somewhere between the seminal Storm of the Light’s Bane and rather less feted but comparably icy Far Away From the Sun, by Sacramentum. Aside from a titular preoccupation with celestial weather patterns, the three bands share an atmosphere of transcendent grandeur that has been virtually unequaled in the years since, despite many imitators.

Where Dawn diverges from the others (facial tattoos notwithstanding) is in its origins–rather than bursting onto the scene as a fully-formed black metal revelation, Dawn’s first days were spent in the cavernous depths of death metal. This wasn’t ragged around the edges or seasoned with d-beats like Nihilist and company, but rather the splashy, tremolo-frenzied kind of death metal that other Swedish artists like Unanimated would capitalize upon in a few short years. Dawn’s 1992 demo Apparition highlights this style, and particularly the dynamic vocals of Henke Forss–booming lows or seething shrieks–on the opening cut, ‘In The Depths of My Soul’. The entire demo, at least those on the compilation discussed below, sound surprisingly vital for 1992, but one should expect nothing less when Dan Swanö is at the controls.

If a better opening statement exists in metal than the first minute of that song, I’ve not yet heard it. The Apparition demo would later be repackaged in a split with the Mexican group Pyphomgertum (ostensibly Demilich worship), with Dawn’s half being called The Eternal Forest. Yet another repackaging–the best yet–would come in 2004, a 2CD compilation of nearly all Dawn’s relevant releases, with retrospective liner notes from bassist Philip von Segebaden, full lyrics, and full-page spreads of past record covers, the band, etc. All hail Necropolis Records.

In their transition to black metal, Dawn would actually re-record ‘In The Depths…’ for their 1994 debut LP, Naer Solen Gar Niber For Evogher. The transformation was a dramatic one, and rather sudden. This new version echoes the Dawn that would take full flight on Slaughtersun, but heard back-to-back with the original, it is found wanting.

Aside from their “day jobs” in Dawn, various members would succeed in other side projects: Henke Forss is perhaps most famous for his session work on In Flames’ Subterranean (arguably their best release and not incidentally the least like In Flames); bassist Philip von Segebaden played with cult bizarros Afflicted; and Tomas Asklund, in the good tradition of all Swedish metal drummers, has played with a bevy of black metal giants such as Dissection, Dark Funeral, and more recently Gorgoroth 2.0 (the Infernus package). Rumors of a new Dawn record started swirling a number of years ago, and a new rehearsal track (see: the sensational ‘The Fourfold Furnace’) was even posted to their website along with encouraging, albeit infuriatingly brief, updates. But the resurgence was short-lived; the last update to their site was in 2008, and hopes for a new record are today waning.

Yet, perhaps if we all pray hard enough watch enough YouTube videos and talk about it on obscure blogs, Henke and the boys might hear us and get back in the studio. Here’s hoping.