There have been a lot of bands channeling that Sunlight Studios and HM-2 driven death metal sound over the last decade, with plenty of American and other European countries injecting elements of hardcore and grind into that familiar Swedish sound. Descent decided to do just that from the completely opposite of the world in Australia back in 2015, and their 2018 full-length Towers of Grandiosity pulled in equal amounts of grind and death metal in a short period of time. A little over three and a half years later the band has prepared a follow-up titled Order of Chaos and it finds them refining their attack while also branching out to include some additional elements that weren’t present before. While still firmly remaining inside the realm of what you’d expect from this type of death metal, there are some unexpected flourishes that hint at a group capable of moving beyond the usual genre trappings.
Despite what I just said, Descent is first and foremost an HM-2 driven band and with the combination of Kurt Ballou’s mixing and Brad Boatright’s mastering Order of Chaos makes sure you know that immediately. Towers of Grandiosity was no slouch in this department, but the material here sounds truly immense and the HM-2 buzzsaw hits you on opener “Tempest” like a freight train going full speed. Focusing on the heavy grooves and blasting upfront makes sense, especially when the recording is this razor sharp, and compared to the shorter grind style track lengths of the debut here things fall even more into the death metal side of the spectrum. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end with an emphasis on riffs that bludgeon you into the ground at differing speeds, and the slight hardcore and grind edges on many of the tracks are sure to stick with listeners who can’t get enough of this kind of material. However, Descent still has some surprises in store throughout Order of Chaos and these get revealed around the halfway point. “Fester” and “Filth” ease off the HM-2 just enough to let some darker melodies seep in, and they’re delivered in a way that give a brief period of pause and atmosphere before the heaviness comes lumbering back in. “Despotic” also leans into this approach with an extended bass solo and creepy melodies that feel like they’re washing over you with a ghastly presence, and these sections push off towards other metal styles that Descent wasn’t tapping into previously. These moments help to break things up and make the material a bit more memorable overall, and while some of it still runs together for me there’s no denying that I’ve found myself drawn back for another whiplash inducing ride frequently.
Although there may be some occasional pauses and melodic flourishes from the instrumentals, the vocals remain razor sharp and in your face for the entirety of Order of Chaos. There’s a regular trade off between higher screams/shrieks and low growls that help to keep the performance feeling fresh across each song, and whether you’re getting an extremely raspy and distorted scream or inhuman growl the intensity never wavers. While you’ve likely heard this type of back and forth quite a bit from death metal of this type, what I really like Descent is how often they switch things up. This isn’t simply a case where the main style is a scream or growl and the opposite pitch is thrown in every so often, as some tracks lean on the low end while others let the ear-piercing screams dominate.
Descent has started to branch out and inject some haunting melodies and other elements into their HM-2 assault, and this showcases a clear evolution over their debut. While it doesn’t quite make it into that upper echelon of death metal for me, the compact half hour runtime ensures there are still plenty of killer riffs that ensure quite a few people will get some significant mileage out of this one. Considering how many groups are out there doing the exact same riffs and vocal patterns from one album to the next, I appreciate that Descent is starting to branch out a bit and if they continue along this path there’s room for them to reach that A level in due time. Order of Chaos is available from Redefining Darkness Records, Brilliant Emperor Records, and Caligari Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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