Artist: Dessiderium

Album Title: Aria

Label: The Artisan Era

Date of Release: 10 December 2021

Just when I thought I’d completed all my reviews for 2021, I’m presented with another promo that I simply could not ignore. The album is entitled ‘Aria’, and it’s the fourth album from the mind and hands of US musician, Alex Haddad. That’s right, Dessiderium is a one-man project from the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. When I received the email for this record, I was unaware of the fact that Dessiderium was a solo affair and, after hearing it several times through, it is still hard to believe if I’m honest. What drew me in to having a listen was the cover artwork and the fact that it is released via The Artisan Era label. What has kept me interested is the music – just as it should be.

Not content with performing most of the music himself, ‘Aria’ is comprised of just five tracks but together span over an hour of music. In anyone’s language, this is ambitious to say the least. These are not short, simple tracks; they are long, multi-layered, detailed affairs, that cover a lot of ground, ranging from gentle progressive rock, to blasts of extreme metal, and many genres in between.

The opening intro to ‘White Morning In A World She Knows’ is utterly gorgeous, and it sets the tone for the entire record perfectly. Gently picked guitar notes are underlaid by subtle synths and the sounds of birds and nature. Haddad’s voice is equally gentle, hushed, and soothing, accenting the fragile melodies perfectly. As the song develops, in come heavier guitar tones, strong virtuoso percussion, and a resonant bass. I’m not entirely sure whether the drums are organic or synthetic such is the quality on offer; if I was a betting man, I’d say that they are programmed because they sound just a little too polished, but if I can’t really tell, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

It actually takes over six minutes before there’s an explosion of more extreme metal, comprised of some fast-paced riffs and pleasing mid-range aggressive growls from Haddad. But he then laces the heavier material with his clean approach, enabling the melodies to shine through even more strongly. And it is with the melodies where Haddad really excels. If I’m faced with a fifteen-minute opener, I want it to hold my attention for as much as possible. One way to do this is with excellent musicianship, which Haddad clearly has. The other is with melody, hooks, or something memorable that makes me want to return with regularity. And this opening epic is laced with beautiful passages, an ebb and flow that is rather enthralling, and some very strong melodies. Flitting between technical death metal, progressive metal, blackened death, and more modern ingredients like djent, it’s an absolute feast for the ears.

However, as good as the opening track is, I would argue that the follow-up, ‘Pale’ is even better. And the reason for this is that it has an even stronger melodic vein that runs through its core. From the opening sparkling, effervescent guitar notes, more reminiscent of a prog rock/fusion track, you know that you’re listening to the real deal. Blistering drumming is accented by soothing vocals before all hell breaks loose and I’m surrounded by extreme metal brutality. But even then, there’s a majestic undercurrent that is then let loose before too long via a reprise of the opening melody albeit joined by an irresistible groove and intensity, a groove that reappears later in the piece to great effect.

From there, the remaining three songs follow a similar pattern although they are very much their own songs. The title track is probably my pick of the three, but it’s a close-run thing in all honesty, such is the consistency on offer, as well as the sheer quality. I really enjoy the stop-start djent style riffing and groove that the title track deploys, as well as the incredibly deft use of light and shade, going from full-on attack to almost complete silence, all the while able to demonstrate Haddad’s skills with both the guitar and from a compositional point of view. ‘Aria’ also makes great use of orchestral, cinematic atmospheres, that give it another strong element.

Having said that, you can’t ignore the all-out black metal exuberance of ‘Moon Lust Delirium’, especially at the beginning of the song, where the drumming approaches warp speed, whilst the guitars aren’t far behind. And yet, for all its extremity, there’s an abundance of elegant melody to be discovered, and which becomes more pronounced the more you care to listen. Neither should you ignore the rousing, almost euphoric feel that closer ‘The Persecution Complex’ brings with it, as well as yet more catchy melody and plenty of keyboard-driven atmosphere.

Speaking very personally, I would perhaps have enjoyed the album more if it had been broken down into more succinct pieces, rather than five gargantuan compositions. And I’m not saying this because I have a short attention span; it has more to do with the fact that, just occasionally, a clever idea or interesting passage threatens to get a little lost within the sheer breadth of music. And if I’m being incredibly picky, the production would have benefitted from a touch more separation and low-end bass. But these are the only vaguely negative comments that I have to make.

Overall, I find ‘Aria’ to be a very enjoyable and rewarding listening experience. This is pure progressive metal, but progressive metal with bite and a healthy dose of heaviness and aggression. If your idea of progressive metal is ‘The Astonishing’ by Dream Theater, then ‘Aria’ may not be for you. If, however, you enjoy well crafted and intelligently constructed progressive metal with an uncompromisingly heavy and extreme edge, I can do nothing other than recommend Dessiderium to you, even if I find the abundant talents of musicians like Alex Haddad irritating and a touch vulgar – couldn’t they have left a little talent for the rest of us?!

The Score of Much Metal: 88%

Dessiderium – Aria

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

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 –

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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