DESCENT INTO MAELSTROM- Dei Consentes
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
Although I had never visited the dodecaphonic metaller’s Andrea “Bigna” “Maelstrom” Bignardi’s independently released (later also on Maculata Anima Records) debut Descent Into Maelstrom’s eponymous²⁰¹⁷, Bignardi handling everything as a sole member after the 2016 conception, I liked the sophomore Iconoclasm (released on Maculata Anima Records in 2019 and then again on Club Inferno Entertainment in 2020) very much giving it a glowing review (5/6) whilst calling it a fantastic balance of melodeath, brutal death bordering on black with Peaceville (Anathema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost) doom/death as well as a plethora of interesting melodies and patterns, where the tracks never overstayed their welcome, whether at a slow, mid, or fast to very fast pace but fluctuated in constant ebbs and flows…the material being pretty even and the production sometimes losing the melody and harmony at a faster pace. Both aspects changed, each in the opposite direction, on this, the 3rd and the final installment Dei Consentes (Divine Consent) released independently on April 5th.
Already Iconoclasm had seen the expansion of Bignardi’s solo project with Peter Buzzi (2018-guitars), Mattia Panunzio (2018-guitars) and Michele “Mik Gawen” Augello (2018-bass) and Michele Castelnuovo (drums) completing the lineup for an actual band resemblance. Interestingly, Bignardi likely programmed the drums since it isn’t clear as to whether there is a drummer or, perhaps, an uncredited session drummer was used on Dei Consentes, but, other than Michele Castelnuovo, the lineup remained unchanged, which shows and immediately plays to their strength on the excellent opener “Cinis Et Pulvis” (Ashes And Dust), hands down the best track on the album which is a 12-tracks concept that explores how the Gods of ancient Rome might represent modern society if they existed today. Rightaway a huge dark Immolation influence slithers in from the very first riff, giving an impression of either Kingdom Of Conspiracy, Atonement starting, or, perhaps, both, but quickly gives way to weird melodic death metal of Spheres Pestilence with an interesting midtrack ambient break which made me think…alternative rocker’s Incubus’s Make Yourself album, all of which is pleasantly emphasized by a much improved production which, nevertheless, feels a little too sterile at times, especially, at a faster pace. Too bad the excellence of the opener is followed by a couple of good but not great tracks which, unfortunately, dominate this record. The, again, melodeathly a’la progressive latter Death “Infecundus” (Unborn) conceived with an Obscura-ic melody, is a glorified instrumental as it contains no vocals whatsoever, but has enough variation and twists and turns to earn a very good mark, as does the even more melodic and progressive “Pater” (Father), thankfully, with returning Ross Dolan-like gutturals of Bignardi and with some clear Human Death overtones. “Amor Sola Lex” (Love Is The Only Law) is the biggest surprise here, decidedly and quite suddenly, not as brutal and complex as its brothers evocative of more The Sound Of Perseverance than Human, but that would be it in terms of the very good material.
I wrote that most tracks were good but not great and there is a very good reason for them being so assessed. Take the Deicidal Glenn Benton-like vocally extremity of “Deus Sol Invictus” (The Invincible Sun God) which experiments with acustics and melody but those accents are not very well balanced with the overwhelming brutality and chaotic pounding of guitars to stand out, or the extremely dissonant and extremely difficult to follow Ulcerated “Silentium” (Silence), where the guitarwork might as well be keyboards, very fast with some mildly catchy melody over and over and some progressive breaks, but, again, so severely technical seemingly for technical aspect sake as if to dismantle my tenacity, enough, overall, to be called good but not enough to be great. And then, the overly brutal “Silvarum Patrona” (Patroness Of The Forests) and the supershort and quite pointless “Deus Belli” (God Of War) don’t even measure up to any of the good but not greats, very close to fillers as if all that technicality justified the lack of compositional vision. It all leads me to conclude that Dei Consentes is not as engaging as Iconoclasm, with not enough variation and melody, with, many times, just seemingly senseless violence with no room to catch a breath for extended time. While they clearly have the instrumental skills equal to Death, Immolation, Obscura or Ulcerate, they seem to lack the ability to write consistently memorable tracks like their influences, choosing to focus predominantly on brutality, complexity and speed. Almost everytime one gets comfortable in a melody or a riff they mercilessly change it where Death’s Chuck Schuldiner would allow us to bathe in it for a while before changing it, which is one of many aspects that made him such an exceptional composer. Chaos, ladies and gentlemen, seems to be the prevalent factor here, and if that had been the intended point then it succeeded at least in that beyond Bignardi’s wildest expectations.
Where will Descend Into Maelstrom go from that? Well, since, on their facebook page, (link above), in a May 9th post, Andrea Bignardi confirmed the permanent dissolution of the band, we may never know. However, I have a feeling, Bignardi, who seemingly musically thinks of himself as one body incorporating two Immolation beings, vocalist Ross Dolan and guitarist Robert Vigna (see Bignardi’s nickname) has come to the end of his musical vision for Descend Into Maelstrom, which the half-cooked final album showcases. With that said, I hope a man of such immense instrumental skill and compositional potential does not intend to disappear from the musical realm altogether as that, unlike “Dei Consentes”, would be a darn shame.