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Ancient extra-terrestrial beings created mankind to be a slave race to harvest gold. They did this by combining their own alien DNA with the DNA of early hominids found on Earth long ago. At least, that's what Zecharia Sitchin believes. Sitchin, an Israeli-American writer, claims to have translated ancient Sumerian texts that describe these events. Although, to most scholars, the accuracy of his "translations" seems sketchy at best. Austin's Sarcolytic has based the lyrics of their newest release, Thee Arcane Progeny, on Sitchin's writings. This makes for a fairly fresh lyrical topic that is interesting for one to explore while listening to the album.
For those who are unfamiliar with Sarcolytic, they are a Texas underground super group of sorts. Three members are also in the lone star brutal death metal band, Images of Violence, while the drummer also plays with Disgorge (USA). Given that information, you know to expect extreme brutality from Sarcolytic. Previously, the band has released an EP and a four-way split CD. With Thee Arcane Progeny, they have traded just a little of their older straight-forward brutality for more musical sophistication. Rest assured, they are still unbelievably heavy.
Jon Furlough (aka Jon Zig) belts out the vocals in a style similar to Frank Mullen. (Speaking of Suffocation, Furlough does artwork and tattoos also. One of his most recent high profile works is the album cover for Suffocation's Blood Oath.) Furlough's vocals fit the music well, and are delivered with power and conviction. Luc Lemay of Gorguts fame helps out on backing vocals on two songs as well. However, the guitars on this album are what really shine the most. Steven Watkin's riffs are complicated yet catchy. He spends most of the album alternating between chugging chords, tremolo-picked single-note riffs, and broad, open-sounding jangly chords. He often plays these more complex chords as arpeggios using a dirty tone. Besides providing contrast, this gives these parts an eerie, off-kilter effect similar to something Immolation or Gorguts might use. This device is used well in both "Thee Arcane Progeny" and "Resurrected for Bloodshed." The bass also plays an important role on Thee Arcane Progeny. (How often can you say that about a death metal album?) Mark Denton plays very tasteful fills that really add to the songs, yet he also knows when to hold back and lay down a solid foundation. His jazzy bass-work on "Emissary" interplays with the guitar, building tension and then releasing to magnificent effect. This is truly the standout track on the album. The drums are the only true gripe on this album, and it has nothing to do with the playing. The drum parts are well executed and interesting enough, but they suffer from the production. The bass drums sound just a little too "clicky" for my tastes. Having said that, I have heard and even enjoyed much worse production. Thin bass drum production is not enough to stop me from thoroughly enjoying this excellent album.
Some of the older "more brutal than thou" fans of Sarcolytic or Images of Violence may think this album is a step down in the brutality department. Although I truly enjoy the older Sarcolytic and Images of Violence material, I love the direction Sarcolytic is pursuing on Thee Arcane Progeny. They are still as heavy as ever, but they are achieving this heaviness in a new, more diverse way. Sarcolytic is beginning to form a more unique musical identity. If the band keeps growing in this direction, they should be gaining some well-deserved attention from more than just death metal's most devout fans.
A note on the artwork: The first couple of hundred copies of Thee Arcane Progeny have a printing error. Rather than featuring the intended artwork, the cover is plain white with only a gold Sarcolytic logo at the top. However, the lyrics on the other side of the foldout cover and the tray card are both printed correctly.
Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com
Sarcolytic is yet another new USDM band to come out of left field and impress me, and with a deal through Unique Leader records, this album should see some play in the hands of the proper underground segment who thirst for more technical death metal that expands upon the roots laid by Deicide, Morbid Angel, Vader, Immolation, Nile, Suffocation, and perhaps a little slice of Behemoth or Krisiun. Thee Arcane Progeny is a good debut, following up a little known EP from 2005. It's not mind blowing good, and in truth the band does not exactly write the most infectious of riffs, but it's the pacing and atmosphere of this album that make it interesting. There has been a pretty potent wave of similar acts lately, and I'd certainly recommend this to fans of The Faceless, Abysmal Dawn, Lost Soul, and Fleshgod Apocalypse, though Sarcolytic do not sound entirely like any of these bands.
The members here are no spring chickens, they've appeared previously in other bludgeoning death metal acts like Disgorge, Cinerary, and statesmen Images of Violence, none of whom are huge bands, but possessive of enough pedigree that they know how to write a death metal record and make it sound and feel as you've just been cast into a nether realm of elder gods, forbidden and forgotten magics, and a giant consuming black hole which eventually consumes all matter, life and dreams. I can't claim to have grown tired through the 38 minutes, for even if the band isn't pulling off some hook to drag you deeper into their nightmarish visions, their playing ability and tempo shifting is rarely less than engrossing.
Dark and briefly grating tones introduce the title track, with its acrobatic guitars and level grunting that storm through a half dozen riffs before you've even blinked an eye, and 0nce through being pulverized you'll come to the realization that there is enough in this song alone to provoke a string of listens, just to decipher the band's rabid chaos. A few similar, destructive numbers include "Exalted Gift of the Abzu", "The Secrets of Divinities" and "Scribe of Celestial Omen", but there are also some songs which far outweigh these in quality. "Manus Obscurus" has a stunning blast of catchy, shifting rhythms that alternate into a discordant, depressive atmosphere and then a kickass, almost melodic breakdown, alongside the dual grunt/snarl vocal patterns of John Zig. "Emissary" is another fantastic track, with walls of descending rhythms broken up by a choppiness that could only be apprenticed from some Lovecraftian butcher block. "The Seed of All Beginnings" also has some barbaric picking and mental pit onslaught.
If you're the type of guy who doesn't wince from the more technical and relentless edge of death metal, but prefers that the bands don't become too showy or indulgent, then the debut of Sarcolytic is straight up your primordial alley. This isn't the catchiest death metal album of late, but it's so tightly executed with dark passion that it is almost impossible not to notice. Texas death metal is in good hands here, even if those hands might be tentacles from a rip in reality that wishes to consume you and consign you to oblivion.
Highlights: Thee Arcane Progeny, Manus Obscurus, Emissary, The Seed of All Beginnings