Desolate Realm - Legions

Angry Metal Guy 60

Formed by two members of Finnish death metal act, Decaying, Desolate Realm is an old school trve metal project firmly rooted in the classic sword and sandals style. Their self-titled 2021 debut was quite the pleasant surprise and made its way onto my year-end list with its strident, uber-macho blend of Manowar, The Gates of Slumber, Argus, and Visigoth. It was riff-forward, burly, beefy stuff that made my back hair angry and I still return to it when I need a good kick in the ass plate. 2023 sees the project’s twosome return to our realm with sophomore entry, Legions, and little has changed with their battle plan. This is still very much the epic trve metal sound and style heard last time, powered by big riffs, rough vocals, and tales of high adventure. In short, this is Steel bait all day long. But can you fight to the death in the Grand High Tribunal’s War Pit to it?

All the things I liked about the Desolate Realm sound are present in the opening title track, led by the gruff, rough vocals of main man, Matias Nastolin. He handles everything but the drumming, and alongside his hoarse bellows, he provides plenty of sturdy, punchy riffs that swing from battle gallops to doom plods as the songs require. This sound would make them shoe-ins for the house band at Winterfell, as there is nothing light or soft in what they throw at you. If you can imagine Visigoth and Orange Goblin stitched together with rawhide, you’re more than halfway there, and I love the war-hungry sound. With a solid approach firmly in place, everything comes down to the song smithing, and there are some good works to be found. There’s a gravitas and genuine heft to songs like “Final Dawn” that invoke the glory days of Doomsword, and it really feels like the music you’d want blasting as you watch a filthy horde of orcs and reavers pounding across the fields toward your spikey battlements. I appreciate this. The more urgent and aggressive “Forsaken Ground” sounds a whole lot like something off Sumerland’s excellent debut and I love the aggressive riffs and pulsing energy. “Betrayal” also brings the sword and hammer to the negotiating table with Forefather-esque jacked-up chugs bulldozing everything into a mass grave for pathetic posers and pretenders.

Unfortunately, some of the material here just doesn’t hit as hard as the debut did. Cuts like “Revelation” and “The Lost One” are solid with interesting moments, but don’t reach that next level of might and majesty, despite some crushing riffs and a strong Manilla Road vibe. Likewise, “Through the Depths” is just okay, but its brooding, mid-tempo plod never feels like it gets going someplace good. The big 8-plus minute closer “Eternal Winter” is a solid song at its core with some sweet doom references that recall vintage Pentagram, but it runs well past its expiration date and labors to hold my interest until the bitter end. I wouldn’t rate any particular song as filler, but the overall impact of the album ends up feeling less ginormous and memorable than the debut did, and that’s a shame.

I have great respect for what Matias Nastolin brings to the table. He delivers bruising, heavy-duty riffs that any trve and/or doom act would pay good money for. He has a way of hammering at the listener with hefty leads and shaking things up tempo-wise just enough to keep you engaged, and things are always kept thick and mean. His vocals are good, if a bit limited in range, but he sounds more confident and flexible this time out with some decent efforts at semi-clean singing sneaking in, and some nifty Mark “the Shark” Shelton-esque references in his delivery. Olli Törrönen provides powerhouse war drumming with that vintage Scott Columbus feel and he complements the fat riffs perfectly. With such solid performances, the only thing holding Legions back is the consistency of the writing. The high points outshine the lesser moments significantly, and I’m left wanting more piledriving cuts like “Forsaken Ground” to rattle my chest plate.

Desolate Realm play a style I’m predisposed to love, and I want to love Legions as much as did the debut, but I’m just not getting there. This is a good, middle-of-the-road trve metal album with doom elements and it won’t leave you feeling cheated. I just want a bit more oomph like we got last time. Still worth a loud listen while wielding a heavy war hammer. Just don’t come in expecting Ragnarok levels of power and glory.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 17th, 2023

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Wed Mar 15 19:31:47 GMT 2023