Brazilians have every reason to be furious with the state of their country. Their misogynist president is a populist with a nostalgic fondness for military dictatorships. Deforestation in the Amazon has become the symbol of heartless environmental despoliation throughout the world. The economy went into recession in 2015-16, and growth was measly before Covid-19 destroyed any chance of a sustained recovery. A bloated public sector and heavily unionised workforce make labour market reforms near impossible (although they are underway as we speak). The earnings for the poorest forty percent shrunk by a third in 2020, while the top ten percent of earners lost just three percent of their income. Is it any wonder that a grindcore band like Desalmado are incandescent with rage?
Yet Mass Mental Devolution is not just about lost economic opportunities and despair at government corruption. Beneath the statistics and GDP per capita numbers are human beings, not faceless economic agents making rational decisions about consumption and production. The band members experienced difficult times during the making of this record, and you can tell in the emotional depth of the music. The opening title track is more of a metallic hardcore offensive in Napalm Death mode – all frothing vocals and ferocious tremolo riffing played with punk intensity. You’ll find no solos here, but the Killing Joke chord choices in the chorus showcase an astute level of song writing.
The first real surprise comes with the excellent ‘Across the Land’, which goes far beyond grindcore and into the same emotional territory as Gojira’s L’Enfant Sauvage. The vitriolic vocals throb in great contrast to the atmospheric guitar picking on the fifth string and give the music an emotional release seldom present in extreme metal. Nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Hollow’, where a harrowing undercurrent permeates through the morbid rhythms and sludgy guitars. A wailing female harmony flickers in and out of the last ninety seconds like a grieving Amazonian songstress projecting her pain through the range of an aching mezzo-soprano voice. ‘Outsiders’ bursts with sorrow amid the eighth-note beats and gliding tremolo patterns. You’d think you’re listening to Pallbearer rather than Brutal Truth, yet they switch into an unadulterated death metal song at 02:30 seconds with a shredding guitar solo added for good measure.
In fact, Desalmado abandon grindcore on this album in favour of a crunchy, atmospheric approach that leans more towards Sepultura and Cro-Mags for its aggression and groove. You’ll appreciate how they ration the riffs. The aim is to subjugate you with greater efficacy. Perhaps the dissonant death metal of ‘My Enemy’ is the nearest they come to the classic Earache Records sound with a flurry of blast beats and Terrorizer assaults. There’s nothing here that screams “filler”.
It’s clear Desalmado put their heart and soul into Mass Mental Devolution, and the zeitgeist is with them. Why can’t a Brazilian extreme metal band be the conscience of the world as seen through the eyes of the underdog? This is more than just protest music; this is a melancholy reading of the strife and divisions that lie ahead.
Release Date: 08/10/2021
Record Label: Gruesome Records
Standout tracks: Across the Land, Hollow, Outsiders
Suggested Further Listening: Go Ahead and Die – Go Ahead and Die (2021), Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat (2015), Horndal – Lake Drinker (2021)