Wednesday 29 March 2023


When you think about British metal bands still out there doing their thing then you probably think along the lines of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. Saxon and Orange Goblin but there is a tier of bands existing just below that upper echelon who have been beavering away making killer albums and touring far and wide for years now without the advantages and benefits of a major label behind them. One of those bands is Desert Storm, an Oxford based combo with six well received albums already under their belts and who have been wowing audiences all over the UK and Europe with their unique blend of stoner, groove metal, sludge and prog almost from day one. The current line up of the band, Matthew Ryan (vocals); Ryan Cole (guitars); Chris White (guitars,/keyboards/backing vocals); Elliot Cole (drums/percussion) and Matthew Dennett (bass) have just released their seventh album "Death Rattle" (APF Records) and time does not seem to have blunted their edge one iota.

"Master of None" confirms that all is still well in the world of Desert Storm, the song boasting ear-catching twin guitar motifs and crunching riffs driven by a superb rhythm section over which singer Ryan delivers a superbly pitched vocal that oozes husky gravitas. The song seems to lean towards an almost Viking Metal dynamic in places, whether this is intentional or not Desert Psychlist does not know but it works. "Cheyne Stoking" is next, a song inspired by graffiti seen sprayed on a wall in Shane Meadow's excellent British revenge movie "Dead Man's Shoes", much like the movie the song is a blend of simpering menace and extreme violence which in the songs case takes the form of pastoral folkish prog progressing into chord crunching, drum skin pounding heaviness with its vocals following a similar progression. There is a touch of, fellow Oxfordites, Radiohead's "Street Spirit" about next track "Bad Trip" in its arpeggiated intro but that comparison soon gets dispelled when a third of the way in Desert Storm erupt into a heavy stoner/sludge groove that would make Thom York's damaged eyelid flutter like a butterfly. For "Melatone" Desert Storm take a leaf out of Green Lung's book by mixing their sludge and stoner grooves with touches of retro flavoured occult rock to create a sound that is at times achingly beautiful at others blustering and brutal. Gently picked acoustic guitar introduces "Salt of the Earth" accompanied by a mournful thick and gravelled vocal, the songs occasional eruptions into gnarled heaviness tempered by bluesy solo's, languid acoustic noodling and flourishes of lysergic keyboard textures. The next three songs "Druid's Heath", "Insomniac" and " Self Depreciation" finds Desert Storm sandwiching proggish textures and psychedelic colours between various degrees of  heavy metallic stoner grittiness while final track "New Dawn" sees the band bringing things to a close with an uncharacteristic but quite delightful bright and airy instrumental. 

Whether Desert Storm will ever smash through that glass ceiling and break into metals upper echelon is doubtful, not because they don't have the chops or the songs but simply because that upper tier was formed in a time when such things could still happen. The music business has changed a lot since bands like Maiden and Priest could play the pub and club circuit with real hope of making a career out of music, now the best most new bands can hope for is to get their music on Spotify, Amazon or Bandcamp, sell some merch and maybe get a few local gigs or get on a small European tour that includes a few festival spots. Given those facts it is testament to Desert Storm's commitment and belief in their music that they are still here, seven albums down the line, still making albums of the relevance and quality of "Death Rattle".
Check it out .... 

© 2023 Frazer Jones

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