Desaster – Churches Without Saints – Album Review

Artist: Desaster

Album Title: Churches Without Saints

Label: Metal Blade Records

Date of Release: 4 June 2021

A second review in as many days for a German band, but the contrast could hardly be more pronounced. From the up-tempo, upbeat and melodic stylings of power metal stalwarts Helloween, to ‘Churches Without Saints’, a blackened thrash metal album from the similarly long lasting Desaster, that displays all the finesse of a bull in a china shop. Despite being active since 1989, this is my first exposure to Desaster and my first thought when I listened to this record was ‘are they a serious band?’

We’re not talking the overt visual silliness of a Gwar or the lyrical hijinks of a Steel Panther, but there’s a definite touch of the tongue-in-cheek about Desaster, as they seek to cram as much heavy metal excess into just about every song on this record. Think of an extreme metal cliché, and it’s more than likely present and correct somewhere within ‘Churches Without Saints’. You want blastbeats, you get them. You want galloping tempos, you get them. You want speed, you’ve got it. You want big riffs, you get them. You want some melody, you can have it. You want a vocalist that can growl, you can have that too. In fact, in the shape of Satanic, you have a vocalist that can growl, gurn, spew, snarl, and spit the lyrics in any way required to make the maximum impact. There’s even the sound of a woman walking in high heels to usher in the rampaging and thunderous song ‘Hellputa’. Clearly, these Germans don’t take themselves too seriously, and this comes across in the music that they create.

Not being the biggest fan of bands like Sodom, Destruction and Overkill, I really didn’t think I liked this album after the first couple of spins. I also wasn’t too enamoured with the lo-fi, muddy, and congested production either. However, it wasn’t too long before the charms of Desaster started to have an effect on me. I’m not going to sit here and say that ‘Churches Without Saints’ is going to be up there with the very best at the end of the year, but it is an album that is worthy of some attention. It is heavy, excessive, and unashamedly underground in the best way possible.

Standout tracks include ‘Learn To Love The Void’, the title track, and ‘Primordial Obscurity’ to name a hefty trio. ‘Learn To Love The Void’ kicks in after a somewhat wasted, pointless intro piece, but makes an instant impact. The pace is furious and the black-tinged riff is immediately engaging, as are the lead embellishments that compliment the ferocious metal tumult. The injection of classic metal lead guitar melody is a nice touch as the song matures too.

The title track slows the pace down and demonstrates that Desaster are just as adept when they’re not travelling at a thousand miles an hour. Beginning with that other clichéd sound of a tolling bell, there’s a hint of old school doom in the air, as well as a heightened sense of darkened atmosphere. The melodies are simple and effective, building towards what becomes a wonderfully catchy, not to mention slightly epic, closing sequence.

Speaking of catchy, look no further than ‘Primordial Obscurity’ in order to get your fix. The opening is insanely fast, threatening to spiral out of control in a flurry of blastbeats and fast-picked riffing. It therefore comes as a surprise when the attack slows appreciably, to be replaced a seriously groovy, melodic approach that reeks of classic 80s heavy metal in the finest of ways. My head nods, I feel the need to raise the horns, and I feel sixteen again…sort of.

The intro to ‘Armed Architects of Annihilation’ is also great, coupling some of the dirtiest bass sounds with a groovy, catchy guitar riff, whilst the lengthier ‘Endless Awakening’ introduces acoustic guitars, whilst using its extended seven-minute-plus lifespan to explore the entire Desaster repertoire, from all-out speedy attack to slower groove, and from understated melody to uncompromising brutality.

All-in-all, it is hard to criticise ‘Churches Without Saints’ too much. It isn’t perfect and it may not be the kind of music that I will want to listen to on a daily basis for that matter. However, the guys in Desaster know exactly what they are doing, and they do it very well. As such, ‘Churches Without Saints’ offers just over 45 minutes of genuine entertainment, excess, and aggressive blackened thrash fun.

The Score of Much Metal: 82%

Further reviews from 2021:

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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