DESALMADO (BRA) – Mass Mental Devolution, 2021 🇬🇧
«What happened here?» That’s what I asked myself the first couple of times I listened to Mass Mental Devolution, the third full length by this São Paulo band. One of those situations in which the songs separately are great, but the sum of their parts don’t have the same impact by any means. For me, it’s been quite evident that DESALMADO wanted to take multiple approaches at the same time, but hadn’t really decided which way they wanted to go, finding themselves in no man’s land and affecting the impression of the listeners, despite it being less than half an hour long. At times, we find a bit of KATAKLYSM-inspired melodic death metal on «Across the Land«, metallic hardcore on «Unite«, modern death metal on «My own enemy«…
We could see it as a catalog of the group’s influences, to prove how versatile they are, but the minutes go by and there’s a feeling that not focusing on anything in particular, the results ended up not being as good as could have been. Jack of all trades, master of none.
So, to give the album a different chance, I decided to dig into the band’s past. And that’s when things got interesting and where I really understood what had happened.
DESALMADO began doing some sort of bestial and raw deathgrind sung in Portuguese. No experiments, no innovations, you know what you want and they give it to you, which means short and saturated songs with a strong dose of social vindication on their lyrics. During the period between their debut album and their EPs/splits until 2016, that was the case. It was then, like any other human being with a minimum of artistic curiosity, that they decided to expand their sounding and to add other influences to their deathgrind on Save Us from Ourselves. A logical step forward, measured, and improved in all its aspects. A deathgrind album that is truly impressive and deserved to have some repercussion, even if you normally aren’t attracted by this kind of sound.
We understand now the raison d’être of Mass Mental Devolution, the absolute emancipation of grindcore and far above, creating extreme metal without labels, without reductionism. But where this purpose does not fail, the result does.
Make no mistake, they wanted to go beyond what they were known for, and they have achieved that. But the sense of dispersion, even now knowing the context, persists. Mass Mental Devolution would have worked better as a set of independent EPs if they really wanted to play what seems a trial and error game. And is this lack of central focus what makes all the work behind it go unnoticed. Because you can tell, whether it’s the use of female vocals at the end of «Hollow», the very subtle use of keyboards on «Your God, Your Dictator» to create a certain atmosphere, or how they aren’t afraid to borrow ideas from hardcore, as we mentioned. There is a palpable effort behind it, without empty statements like «this is our most mature record«. The defect is that lack of unity in the global outcome, that indecision of wanting to do everything at the same time, which is what could take us to feel we have heard something mediocre on a first general listen.
It is not like that at all, but it takes time to detect it.