Death Rattle

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Master Of None
02. Cheyne Stoking
03. Bad Trip
04. Melatone
05. Salt Of The Earth
06. Druid's Heath
07. Insomniac
08. Self Deprecation
09. New Dawn

Ah, now this is the stuff. There is never a shortage of bands whipping up thunder in the reductive, inelegant name of stoner metal, but genuinely great albums are less common, even in these overpopulated times. The lysergic creams always rises to the top eventually, however. DESERT STORM have been building towards "Death Rattle" for a long time. The UK band's sixth full-length in 13 years, it follows a series of strong records that documented the real-time evolution of the quintet's sound; from promising but primitive on 2010 debut "Forked Tongues" to the more inventive wrath 'n' roll of 2020's widely praised "Omens". Whether "Death Rattle" is a certified peak of prowess or merely another step upwards is a question for the future, but this is a masterly slice of hybridized SABBATH worship either way.

DESERT STORM have learned from the greats and, slowly but surely, chipped away at their masterplan until something unique emerges. These songs are still in debt to everyone from KYUSS and SLEEP to SOUNDGARDEN and ENTOMBED, but everything has been melded together seamlessly, with some beautifully placed progressive touches and moments of delicate, downbeat restraint elevating the whole shebang.

Good Christ, these boys know their way around a riff. "Master Of None" is a barreling cyclone of fuzzed-up, strutting doom, with more swing than a giraffe's nutsack. It would be a terrible clich√© to note that it sounds like KYUSS on steroids, but it actually does. So there. Blissed-out and sprawling, "Cheyne Stoking" has the lurching, grinding gait of pure, acid-fueled doom, an obscene amount of aggression per square inch and the lurking specter of analogue keys. Beginning with the moonlit, Oxfordshire equivalent of a languorous, desert rock intro, "Bad Trip" erupts into evil, sledgehammer sludge. "Melatone" turns flagrant SABBATH-isms inside out, before drifting gently away into a psychedelic reverie (and back again). "Salt Of The Earth" is an enigmatic wash of "Sky Valley" subtlety and fiery, caveman riffs. "Druid's Heath" and "Insomniac" are both hulking, authoritative riff pileups, with sweetly conceived detours into mellower territory; "Self Deprecation" is a red-blooded salute to the unerring power of traditional doom, but still with that all-important mid-song side-step into something entirely unexpected. Instrumental epilogue "New Dawn" steps even further away from the bong, almost like a teaser for the next  DESERT STORM album, should the band feel up to the task of topping this one. Good luck with that.

Author: Dom Lawson
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