Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Despair - Decay of Humanity (1990)

With Robert Kampf leaving the band's affairs to focus on his fledgling Century Media Records, Despair acquired a new vocalist in Andreas Henschel, who was clearly a more practiced front man with a melodic tone capable of both aggressive thrash and flighty power metal, even going so far as to emulate James Rivera's Helstar howling on a number of the tracks here. The band also picked up a dedicated bass player in Klaus Pachura, and a more technical, melodic direction was initiated in the compositions. Decay of Humanity is mildly superior to the debut in many ways, but probably the most notable would be the production, which is glossy and clear throughout the entire album, letting the thin, labyrinthine processions of the guitars to truly shine.

It's best to think of this as tech power/thrash in the same school as Realm, Toxik, Watchtower and Mekong Delta, but Despair aren't necessarily as explosive or well thought out as any of those bands, and as such there are very few individual tracks that really engross me. However, the sophomore is extremely consistent, never slumping as it weaves through a metric fuck ton of guitar riffs, all delivered in a discourse of cerebral force that is rarely broken with a falsetto cry or surgical tech flurry. Tracks like "Cry for Liberty" and "Victims of Vanity" have their pure, thrashing moments, while Henschel soars across the crest, but I prefer the more progressive elements found in the shifting of "Radiated" and the epic crawling of "A Distant Territory", which segues into tasteful clean guitars and almost Ray Alder-like vocals between bouts of surgical momentum.

It's not quite as good as 1992's Beyond All Reason, but it definitely sets the stage for that career highlight, not to mention it's one of those rare albums which you can just sit straight through, 40 minutes of thought craft, decent lyrics and variation that should most appeal to the prog/thrash sect. Despair didn't exactly strike gold here, but the album is good enough that it should have brought them a little more attention, especially when you consider that their former singer was running their label. But in the end, the multitudes so rarely pay respect to anything that requires even a tint of ponderous observation, and smart and 'semi-smart' records like this wind up in the clutches of but a few open souls.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (brains filled with equations)

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