Since 1989 Germany's Desaster have been churning out their unique and unholy blend of extreme metal, and in 2021 they return with perhaps their most powerful album to date, the towering Churches Without Saints. "It's a typical Desaster old school black-death-thrash metal album, with a lot of aggression, but also great atmosphere and epic tunes!" enthuses guitarist and founder member Infernal. With a simple remit of making an album full of "neck-breaking songs" the quartet have once again proven themselves leaders in their chosen genres, giving their faithful and newcomers alike plenty to salivate over.
With a five-year gap elapsing since they dropped last album The Oath Of An Iron Ritual, fans have had to be very patient, but will find the results more than worth the wait. "It does seem to be every four or five years that we release albums now, but I won't say that's because of a lack of creativity, rather the obligations the members have outside of the band have grown over the years. But, when the forces come together there's always magic in the air, which is needed to write strong new songs." This extended gap did not lead to the band feeling extra pressure when it came time to work on new music. "We never feel any pressure, this would kill creativity and the joy of playing music. We always meet to have fun and celebrate the music, it's not a business for us. We enjoy writing new songs and when we think it's time for a new album we just do it." Spending a year and a half writing, the band never have a scheme or pattern to work to, letting things come naturally - "all our feelings just flow through our hands into our instruments and make the songs, that's it." Never having to push themselves particularly hard, they discard anything that does not sound good to all eight ears and enjoy themselves whenever they're together. "It's always great to meet the other assholes, drink some beer, play some old stuff to warm up and then start with some new shit, working on it step by step." Two new ears were also added to the equation this time out with Hont taking over behind the kit from previous drummer Tormentor, bringing a welcome change to the way they work. "He's a very skilled drummer and can play really anything. Whereas in the past the songwriting was a lot of 'trial and error' with testing many rhythms we nowadays can work much more efficiently. Hont knows what rhythms fit to the riffs immediately. He has studied Desaster's music in detail and knows what works best, but he is not just copying Tormentor's style - he brings his own skilled style into the music, and also some new rhythms and figures. That of course brings some fresh wind into the songs."
The title of Churches Without Saints was initially envisaged by Infernal and bassist Odin, but once presented to Sataniac the vocalist brought it to life. "I started with a few words about the hypocrisy of religion. We played the song a few times at the rehearsal room, and after that the words came to my mind automatically. We are blinded and we are still suffering from these old fairy tales. Even after thousands of years we still think there is a need to save your soul - or something like that - from death. But there isn't any need for this. Life goes on without you." Exploring ideas that stem from this there is a lot of depth and philosophy in the lyrics, looking at concepts related to life and death and even going beyond that. "Learn To Love The Void", for instance, posits "if you still search for a place in Heaven or Hell, it would be easy to find salvation within the nothingness of the void. This is the place for silence, and you don't have to serve or pray to reach it. Please try to learn to love the void. For me it's always quite reassuring that everything ends." Then there is the more abstract "Armed Architects of Annihilation", which is about remaining unsure as to what life actually is, Sataniac supposing that "maybe our cognitive mind is only a failure in evolution".
The record was tracked in the band's rehearsal room and was recorded, mixed and mastered by their live mixer Jan "Janosch" Gensheimer. This led to a very relaxed atmosphere throughout the whole process, having rehearsed a lot prior to recording and also doing a full pre-production demo with their own equipment, meaning they could record very fast and without many mistakes. They did however change things up a little, sonically speaking. "It was a big goal for me to change the sound a bit," says Infernal. "Whereas the last albums had a very harsh sound where the mid and high frequencies were dominating I wanted a warmer and smoother sound this time. I always liked the sound of our Tyrants of the Netherworld album from 2000 very much, and the new album is an effort to develop this sound with more details and different instruments. On Tyrants we had the rough mud of deepest hellish caves, now we present you the black lava which is flowing around the throne of Satan himself!" And having achieved everything they set out to, Churches Without Saints definitively starts a new and exciting chapter in one of extreme metal's most consistently thrilling bands.