You are dreaming. At first, it feels like you’re floating in warmth and sunlight. However, as you drift, your dream shifts from warm light through a myriad of colours and textures – some dark, some light, some rough, and some smooth. You don’t know exactly what kind of dream you’re having, but it’s clear that you’re on a journey.
With five interlinked tracks ranging from over nine to nearly sixteen minutes in length, Dessiderium’s new full-length, Aria, is just such a dreamy odyssey. It is a passage of darkness and light that takes the listener through warm, gazey atmospheres to orchestral overtures, and blackened blasts to progressive death metal sections.
Dessiderium is the solo project of Alex Haddad, who also performs with Arkaik and Nullingroot. His most recent full-length, 2020’s Shadow Burn, made a wave in the extreme metal scene with a mastery of videogame-like textures and an innovative approach to black and death metal. With Aria coming only a year and a half after Shadow Burn, it is impressive how much growth has been achieved in terms of production and arrangement.
“White Morning in a World She Knows” immediately captures this growth. The towering, nearly sixteen-minute piece starts off softly with field recordings, heavily delayed guitars, and gentle singing. It is quickly apparent how much more polished Aria is in comparison to last year’s Shadow Burn. All the well-mixed layers (and there are many) create a tapestry of distinct yet cohesive textures. As the track builds with huge drums, swelling synths, keys, and strings, the arrangement becomes even more epic before increasingly heavy and technical passages emerge alongside blackened shrieks. While symphonic metal, blackgaze, and progressive death metal are not such disparate genres, they are effectively intermingled here, and this combination maintained my interest even during such a lengthy track.
Frankly, it is at times difficult to pull apart the variety of textures and passages that appear throughout the five tracks on Aria. With such long songs that flow seamlessly into one another, I think it may be part of Haddad’s intention to create a sonic journey as opposed to a collection of distinct tracks. While each song does an effective job at maintaining thematic consistency, it is still quite easy to lose oneself in the album. Whether you enjoy that feeling or not will be up to you as a listener.
Regardless, what is clear from the beginning to the end of Aria is the monumental accomplishment it is. It is perhaps even more impressive as a solo project. With such massive songs flowing so smoothly together while pulling from so many genres and elements, Aria is a remarkable record that demonstrates Haddad’s excellence and creativity as an instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer. Many bands fail to succeed at writing one epic track on an album, let alone the five that appear on Aria. With such a successful approach established for Dessiderium, it seems as though Alex Haddad is poised to continue taking progressive black/death metal in new directions as his career evolves.