Year of release: 2020
Released by: Decadence Within Records
Rating: 7 / 10
I think we should start this review with a small background explaining how an ancient bandfrom the former Yugoslavia, now based on the territory of Croatia, suddenly was released in Belarus on a cassette. Decadence Within is a label directly related to the editors of friendly Black Curse Zine. In turn, the label started with an extravagant fanzine called Decadence Withzine, which, if anything, is still available for purchase through this same label (I hope you are not confused yet). At a certain period, the DW editorial office went wild on the old Balkan metal scene, which is no wonder, since this is one of the few places on the planet where there was its own cool underground, completely devoid of public attention. The result of the hobby was the only issue of the English-language fanzine Devastated (also still available). During the creation of fanzine, editors got acquainted with the DEVASTATION band so closely that they agreed on the physical publication of two of its latest releases on the cassette.
DEVASTATION has existed since 1986, but the first period of the band's activity ended already in 1990. During this time, the Yugoslavs managed to record two excellent demos, both the size of almost the full-length album. For many years, these records were covered in the dust of oblivion, until they were remembered by the Chinese AreaDeath Productions and the Italians F.O.A.D., who made well-deserved re-releases. In 2007, the band revived, but its new release, the EP cover “In Memoriam”, presented on this tape, was released only 10 years later. And he first fresh material in 30 (!) years, the “Ground Zero” demo, was released in 2019. It can also be found on this cassette. All digital discography is available at Bandcamp of DEVASTATION, something even for free. Now the group is preparing a debut full-length, but this is another story.
The history of DEVASTATION, despite the modest number of releases, is very interesting and intense, but I will not retell it. All details can be found either in an interview for Devastated zine, or by purchasing a cassette. The same interview is attached to it, separately printed on white paper and neatly attached with a ribbon. DIY aesthetics! Those interested in the old Balkan underground will find a lot of useful information there.
Now about the music. EP “In Memoriam”, as already mentioned, contains covers, only 3 pieces. It is dedicated to the favorite bands of DEVASTATION and their deceased members. Two of them are local - ATOMSKO SKLONIŠTE and KUD IDIJOTI. If you're in doubt whether to plunge into a serious study of the old Balkan metal, these two covers will help you decide. I liked the first one more: this is a mid-tempo thrash, which, in general, I do not like, but the song is well tailored and intelligently performed. The title riff somehow associates with “Wrathchild” of IRON MAIDEN. The second song is the simplest speed-punk action, which is much closer to me, but it sounds too positive. Finally, the third number is a cover of “Too Late, Too Late”, which is dedicated to the entire classic line-up of MOTÖRHEAD at once. No need for comments here.
The "Ground Zero" demo contains four full songs. Despite the freshness of the material, in fact, almost nothing has changed. Like 30 years ago, this is thrash with a noticeable aftertaste of hardcore punk (but not so noticeable to call it crossover). The songs are very rhythmic, the parts of the instruments are well read, there are even some guitar solos. The best thing, in my opinion, is “Ghosts of War” (has nothing to do with SLAYER). In short, there is plenty material to bang your head to. Though I got the impression impression that the demo needs more anger (perhaps not the most inspired vocals of the band's leader is the reason). But it’s worth remembering that this is a demo, and the album should have a better sound and brighter energy. Anyway, the sound is very good already. Even in digital form, the recording sounds lively and organic, but on the cassette it sounds like if it comes from the beginning of the 90s. The lyrics to the songs, unfortunately, are absolutely banal: fears and horrors of war. There is nothing catchy. But it’s still better than some useless political bullshit from ex-punks.
The release as a whole leaves a good impression, I will definitely come back to it from time to time. However, the design of “Ground Zero / In Memoriam” is perhaps superior to the internal content. After receiving carte blanche from the group, the publishers threw away the absolutely worthless covers of the digital versions of EP and the demo and drew a six-panel inlay from scratch, creating an extremely stylish and appropriate collage from old DEVASTATION photos, flyers, covers, and simply relevant material. In addition, the lyrics to the demo, information about the line-up and recordings of both releases were included on the inlay. Informative and beautiful. The cassette itself is also cool - green plastic, stickers. I already mentioned the attached interview. A quick inspection of the release can be found on a video.