Sit down. Don’t bring anything with you, you won’t need it. Just the bare essentials. Strap yourself in. No, really, ground yourself so that you are physically unable to move. Get comfy, you’ll be in this position for precisely 35 minutes and 29 seconds. That’s how long it takes for Little Desert’s debut album to wash over you. Peaks, troughs, all of it – it’s a musical lobotomy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-style. It’s the most brilliantly theatrical album of 2015, and you heard it here first.
After gently teasing this album for the past six months, with the two singles “Captive” and “Resurrection” causing a bit of a stir, Little Desert have finally dropped Saeva, and it’s fearsome. They could coat the album in serrated blades loaded with disease – one prick and you’re a dead man – but it wouldn’t make the record any more dangerous. It rears and plunges, shakes its mane, refusing to be anything less than an immersive, devouring work of art.
The first thing to notice about Saeva is how ghoulish this thing is. And not in the sort of Addams Family, jokey way; boo, gotcha hahaha. No, there is the definitive scent of a corpse that haunts this album. The next noticeable aspect is that Little Desert prove they are the lords of the crescendo, continually building songs from rubble into spectres that chase the viewer into dark corners. The ghosts are there, hammering on the doors to come out; they’re embedded in the cries of Esther Rivers, the panicked guitar stampedes, the tense synth riffs. Everything is buckling under pressure, running at a desperate pace, trying to escape. Take “Captive”: it rises, slowly, slowly, begins to scurry, in a zig zag, menacing repetition one moment, blistering guitar solos the next. It reverts back and forth, dizzying and demonic; by its finale, Little Desert have you begging for mercy AND more.
That intention of crescendo is present in almost all of Saeva. It’s not always the threatening blare of “Captive” – “Sinner” and “She’s Alive” wander into murder ballad territory, whilst “Soothsayer” contains a psych tint. But when Little Desert hit their grim stride, that’s when they’re at their peak. Take “Resurrection”, which marches from a funeral pace to a gallop, led by the charging Rivers. Her bellow stands commanding, directing the frantic synth arpeggios, and diving boulders of guitar into the a finale even better than Hellraiser, and that movie had hooks ripping off every bit of a guy’s flesh!
Little Desert have always impressed with their boldness, and they haven’t disappointed with Saeva. It’s tense, and tragic, and when they scratch their nails across the whiteboard, Little Desert light up, especially when Rivers’ thundering roar takes centre stage. It’s theatrical, huge and dense, a record you can be suffocated and squashed by, and not mind in the slightest.
You can grab Saeva from the it Records Bandcamp here. Little Desert are doing a few launches up the East Coast real soon: Saturday, 21st at The Tote in Melbourne (w/ Teuton, Mollusc and Half Mongrel), the 26th at Blackwire Records (w/ Ela Stiles and Whitney Houston’s Crypt) and a hell of a party in Brissy at the Crowbar on the 28th (w/ OCCULTS, Last Chaos, Pleasure Symbols and Death Church)