Well, this rips. Plain and simple. It isn't the most original album around, but Year of Desolation's debut is a ferocious blend of death and thrash metal. Either this Indiana band is quite disciplined, or someone worked it to the bone, as the songwriting and performances are amazingly mature. The songs are crisp and concise, the guitars are tight and precise, the vocals smoothly blend rasps and growls, and you could set your watch to the drums.
In fact, the band could stand to lay off the click track a bit. One of its most appealing qualities is its strong old-school thrash influence. A cymbal catch here, a descending riff there – I don't know how old these guys are, but they sound like they wore tight jeans and white hi-tops in high school. While thrash can get technical, it's first and foremost about attitude. That attitude is lacking in these surgical performances; these songs need to have the manic, seat-of-the-pants energy of Reign in Blood.
This album is no retro trip, though, as it mixes death and thrash metal equally. Carcass comes through in the dissonant guitar harmonies; another influence, Swedish melodic death metal, weakens the material. Songs charge along viciously, only to deflate with thirds-based, third-rate Iron Maiden harmonies. Put away the weeny melodies, guys, and get to work on those whammy bars!
I don't mean to sound hard on the band, as this album is quite enjoyable. But Year of Desolation have potential to be more than just "enjoyable." They have the skill and chops to make albums that snarl and foam at the mouth. Until they get the confidence to keep more first takes, chew on this fine debut.