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Noriega - "Desolo" (CD/EP)

Noriega - "Desolo" CD/EP cover image

"Desolo" track listing:

1. You Are God Songs (3:20)
2. Bernard (2:21)
3. Detriment (5:49)
4. Life By Myself (3:37)
5. Ballacaust (12:24)

Reviewed by on December 28, 2009

"'Desolo' is a promising first step for Noriega, who in the future should focus on their doom/sludge side more than their bland hardcore aesthetics."

Noriega is the type of band that evokes a reaction out of people. Whether that reaction is positive or not will depend on one’s musical tastes, but their debut EP “Desolo” seems destined to evoke some kind of emotional response. This isn’t the type of album that will click immediately; the band takes a hardcore sound, molded with breakdowns and prominent drum beats, and dresses it up with a doom/sludge outfit. It’s a combination that definitely has potential to result in something magical. Some of this potential is fulfilled on “Desolo,” while the rest is a series of missed opportunities.

The pace on “Desolo” is torturous, with only a few minuscule moments of fast revelry in opener “You Are God Songs.” The band slogs along with a carefree mindset, unafraid to make up their own boundaries. Hints of melody are ever-present in the guitar work, standing out in the slowly ascending lead work in “Detriment.” The songs are nonlinear in their structure and form, even making a quick number like “Bernard” multi-layered and unconventional. The production isn’t great, especially with the loud snare drum and varied vocal tones, which fade in and out of the mix. This hinders the early parts of the album, which largely go by with little fanfare, though a drum solo in “Life By Myself” is a nice change of pace.

Everything on the album cumulates in the 12-minute closer, “Ballacaust.” Easily the most ambitious song on the album, the band abandons much of their hardcore tendencies for a modern doom metal epic. The song never gets out of first gear, electing to lumber ahead with the speed of a snail, but the aggression of a vulture picking on a lifeless cadaver. The last half of the song is pure guitar feedback and monotonous drum patterns, as vocalist Trae Malone rips his vocal chords open passionately screaming at the top of his lungs. The closing moments are all Malone, as a dark rhetorical question is stated, “Should I be on my knees/hopeless, stagnant/ breaking my teeth on the concrete?”

Pinpointing Noriega’s sound is not a light task to accomplish. The best that can be determined is the unorthodox hybrid of The Red Chord, Eyehategod, and Dillinger Escape Plan. The EP throws a lot of ideas on the table and actually connects with a few of them, though a bad production and lackluster first half are notable flaws. Even with a couple of clunkers, the band has forward thinking songwriting concepts and an attitude against sticking to a formulaic approach. “Desolo” is a promising first step for Noriega, who in the future should focus on their doom/sludge side more than their bland hardcore aesthetics.

Highs: Ambitious doom/hardcore hybrid sound, band avoids formulaic songwriting principles, lots of creative ideas thrown out.

Lows: Not all the ideas work well, closer "Ballacaust" stumbles a bit near the end, poor production.

Bottom line: A promising EP for Noriega that blends hardcore and doom/sludge to form a hybrid with a lot of potential for the future.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)