Whether one considers "A New Shape of Desperation" by Swedish tech-thrashers BY NIGHT as a progression from its 2005 debut "Burn the Flags" depends on how strictly the term is interpreted. From the standpoint of songwriting, the band has settled down and allowed compositions that had bordered on purposeful calamity to gain more individuality and become a bit more memorable. On the other hand, the manner in which BY NIGHT launched its mix of aggressive modern thrash, technicality, and rhythmic angularity (ala MESHUGGAH) on "Burn the Flags" (the follow-up full-length to a split with CIPHER SYSTEM) gave the debut a palpable sense of excitement, not to mention a tense, unsettling quality that spoke of greatness to come. What is all of that supposed to mean? Only that "A New Shape of Desperation" does not make quite the same impact and falls just short of its relatively inspiring predecessor. What is important to note here is that if you liked "Burn the Flags", then you will probably also like "A New Shape of Desperation". And yes, I like "A New Shape of Desperation", it just happens that my ass isn't nearly as sore from the kicking this time around, compared to that which occurred during sessions spent with "Burn the Flags".
The choppy thrash-based riffs and stuttering tempos, and mechanized-warfare delivery are once again heard on "A New Shape of Desperation". The difference is that a handful of the songs give those not enamored with emphasis on teeth-rattling audio a chance to breath a little easier. Tracks like "The Truth is Sold" and "People Like You" are just as aggressive, but are moderately more memorable, though not a major departure. It is not like the aural psychosis has subsided a great deal though, as the manic "Idiot" and sheer aggressiveness of "Walls of Insecure" illustrate. Where the band stretches its wings is on "Dead Eyes See No Future" (yeah, we know, it is also the title of an ARCH ENEMY song) with its slower pace and haunting cries of "time is running out", as well as on "Forsaken Love", which displaces the group's typical abrasiveness with a smoother flow and an easily digested arrangement. Ending with a piano-based instrumental called "Time is Running Out" is a nice touch and further evidence of the band's willingness to mix things up.
I'll have to go back and listen to "Burn the Flags" and "A New Shape of Desperation" back to back again, but as it stands right now, I'm still more moved by the former. We're not talking a wide gulf between the two though, as the half-point difference between the rating of the first and second full-lengths demonstrate. It is a simple matter of going with one's gut.