In Praise of “Shadow Burn” by Dessiderium (#3 in 2020’s Top Ten)

Shadow Burn, by one-man act Dessiderium, is a brutal album. I do not mean simply in the musical sense – one could assume that just by looking at the cover – but lyrically as well. Dedicated to Jannelle Rosness, the deceased significant other of Dessiderium’s Alex Haddad, Shadow Burn is a gruesomely intense lament of grief and loss, and Haddad’s resolve that “I’ll be your voice/I’ll scream your name” comes through loud and clear both in the album’s gut-wrenching lyrics and absolutely mind-blowing musicianship.

This album will not be enjoyable unless you have a penchant for extreme metal, and Dessiderium more than delivers on that front. Alex Haddad is an insanely talented musician, and has written an album by himself that rivals the complexity and creativity (and ferociousness!) of albums written by full bands. Shadow Burn is not only one of the most refreshing death metal releases in a very long time, but a stellar prog metal release that ought to stand among the best of the field this year, with some truly ridiculous guitar work, song structures, and even a stellar mix. The album will also not be enjoyable to anyone without a stomach for Haddad’s nakedly transparent lyricism, as there is a greater gravity to his struggles with suicidal ideation, drug addiction, absence and longing, and unbridled rage at God knowing the lyrics are autobiographical in nature and not your standard death metal window dressing (and, as far as I can tell, there is no happy resolution to be had here). The fusion of Shadow Burn’s lyrics and music is a relentless onslaught of intensity, emotion, and beauty that meshes perfectly with one other and honors Haddad’s desire to dedicate his absolute best to his departed love.

In a year where my #2 and my #1 didn’t exist, this would’ve been my Album of the Year, and I hate that I cannot crown it with that high an honor. I have to strain to think of anything to nitpick here; the only thing I even faintly dislike here of is the somewhat generic album cover. The parity between my top three has been closer than any year I can previously recall, and Shadow Burn’s status as a runner up ought not mar it’s horrible magnificence in the slightest.

If you have thoughts, let me hear them!

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