Desert Storm have been quietly gathering pace in the UK scene since they formed in 2007 and have justified their position with relentless touring, blistering live shows we’re they’ve had to hold their own with a myriad of bands from the likes of Karma to Burn, Crowbar and another British heavy weight Orange Goblin.
In a day and age where bands come and go in the blink of an eye, it seems hard to believe that this May Desert Storm follow up their 2018 Sentinels album with Omens, their fifth full length album. A tribute to their dedication bringing their brand of high quality, hard hitting stoner rock/metal to the masses.
Fans of Desert Storm will know by now what they are getting, thunderous grooves and slamming riffs, drums that hit like a blacksmith’s hammer on an anvil and gruff, tortured vocals that nod to the good and great of both the stoner and metal scenes. Bur for those that aren’t familiar, imagine Black Sabbath, Mastodon and Metallica having a fist fight with Kyuss, Black Flag and Clutch. In an empty factory.
And so to Omens itself, there is something about this release that feels important; that feels like the right album at the right time. Desert Storm are poised with this album to take their manifesto to a bigger stage as they seek to turn up their arsenal to the proverbial eleven and have delivered a collection of songs that seem richer, bigger and bolder.
Beginning with an ominous spoken word incantation, the band set out the gravity of the albums tone, part mystic ritual, part apocalyptic warning, the swirling sounds effects drenching you with heady atmosphere before the rolling riffs of Black Bile come sweeping in to immerse you entirely. Heavier, and yet more tuneful, than initial reactions might suggest, this shows that on Omens they’ve found ways of adding more depth and layers to their sound.
Oscillating between subtle picked notes that are almost tender and hypnotic and massive punishing walls of sweeping sound, Chris White and Ryan Cole dance over the foundations laid down by bassist Chris Benoist and Drummer Elliot Cole, creating a build and release dynamic that can’t but help produce a response on an emotional level. As the track breaks down to a softly sung passage that ends up repeating ‘As these organs begin to fail’ is absolutely captivating and far more melodic and passionate than you would have expected, despite the high quality of their past output.
thunderous grooves and slamming riffs, drums that hit like a blacksmith’s hammer on an anvil and gruff, tortured vocals that nod to the good and great of both the stoner and metal scenes…
That really speaks to the heart of Omens as an album. Having established their ability to pummel you into submission with heavy tracks like Vengeful Gods and Pain, Grief And Suffering, those moments don’t come as any surprise.
As a fan of the band you won’t bat an eyelid at the plodding, brute force, but it’s the space in-between and the use of additional musical instrumentation that make those moments all the more worth waiting for, helping to build the intrigue and the desire for repeat plays. The band have moved their song writing into something that feels cinematic with tales of burning villages and orcs and at times channelling their inner Viking invoking sound a that would give Amon Amarth a run for their money.
The Path Of Most Resistance is a prime example of this – downbeat, full of almost Eastern flavouring, it’s a robust track that is, at times, almost a muscular ballad and full of evocative narrative from Matt Ryan whose performance is an epic voyage full of gruff melody in itself.
As an additional note, this album sounds fantastic. Captured at Wormwood Studios at the tail end of last year, everyone comes out sounding a winner, but and on repeated listens, I have to give the guitars extra kudos. They do so much of the hard work throughout Omens and it’s something I’ve probably never given the credit they so right deserve in the past.
Closing out with Rebirth, an acoustic comedown after the ferocious battering the band have, at times, dished out and here Matt Ryan’s vocals are given the opportunity to showcase his deceptively soulful voice; the tender picked strings gives it a contemporary country, folk blend that somehow fits in with the tales of the occult and monsters and yet could stand alone as a dissemination of the modern world.
Listening to Omens simultaneously reminded me how, for my own sins, I have taken Desert Storm for granted and overlooked them in my praise. In some cases this was justified, when I originally saw them live they were ‘that band who supported Karma To Burn’ good, but for me back then, nothing to get massively excited about.
What Sentinels, and now Omens, have shown is that was a long time ago and it’s a doing the band a huge disservice not to credit them for their longevity and steadfast determination to push their craft to new heights.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden