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A Solid, Albeit Generally Unexceptional Debut. - 78%

lord_ghengis, March 5th, 2008

You'd probably surprised of the number of people who feel that the next new style of metal will come out of South American countries, such as Brazil and Argentina. It's not quite a view I share, but it's not a bad opinion because most bands from this continent tend to have a sound that can clearly be seen as different to everywhere else in the world. Sacrum unfortunately aren't one of these bands. Apart from the vocals, which are slightly accented, this is pretty much generic. What Cognition gives us is marginally progressive metal with an emphasis on the straight ahead metal, with instrumental passages of more complex progressive metal.

It's an enjoyable enough listen, they tend to keep the energy up better than most prog metal bands, and they won't send you to sleep due to the fairly high tempos and catchy grooves, but where this debut let's us down is in that, it sounds like what it is, a first go. Basically the band haven't got a handle on doing their high energy catchy riffing with the more progressive stuff at the same time. Each of those two styles are blatantly individual sections of music, it's most apparent on the first 5 or so songs, which all do the same thing, progressive metal, often similar to Dream Theater during all riffs and solos, but soon as Estanislao Silveyra has to start singing, all the complex writing goes away, and we get enjoyable enough metal riffing. It sounds good enough, think Evergrey's heaviest riffs spanning their entire career with a little bit of a Fear Factory machine gun touch, but it's just not quite refined enough, and it makes this whole release seem a little amateur. There are some exceptions, such as the first "In Memory" verse, but for the main part this problem is present on all the early tracks.

However, things deviate from this formula a little bit later on, as the track lengths and the number of ideas grow, such as the surprise screamed vocals on Sacrum and what not. The problem with these more original songs is that they're not really all that good. They're different, and written with more interesting techniques, and each one usually has one incredible part, but generally aren't as enjoyable. So as the songs begin to improve on the problems of the earlier songs, the begin to lose some of that metal energy or just general listenability that made the early ones decent songs. So while the content is different, it's not necessarily better.

As a whole, the album is good, but there's just not a lot of moments that just make you say "Wow, this band kicks ass".

The band themselves are quite good at their instruments, not quite virtuosos, but the know how to write to their advantages, drummer Agustín Sedano Acosta never plays anything that's really all that hard, but he writes good, catchy, energetic drum work, which really aids in the bands driving sound. The bass work, which just follows along with the guitar can also have this effect. Silveyra while capable enough, isn't that much of a singer, but he tends to write some enjoyable vocal lines. Most sound the same, but they're enjoyable. Although he can be a little hit and miss, such as the pre-chorus in "Stay" being absolutely god awful, but the chorus following it directly is a perfectly written big sing-a-long one. Mariano Herraiz plays his keyboards with great skill, he tends to not make any noise when he isn't out in front, which is during most of the sung sections, but he definitely takes advantage whenever he gets the chance to show off, with a lot of fast and interesting work.

The guitarists Estanislao Silveyra, and Martín Guerrero, both sound very slick and precise, definitely no sloppiness to be found. The pair are the ones responsible for both the things that make this band feel generic, and also the things that make this band awesome, such the end of "Innerself". Some of their prog sections sound similar to other famous prog sections, but generally, they're a solid pair with good solos which they manage to keep at reasonable lengths. This is aided by the production, which clearly represents their willingness to sound like larger bands. Everything sounds very similar to something you'd expect to hear out of any of the biggest studios, other than few things that are little off. Such as the guitars having huge amounts of volume drop when they're not being highlighted.

Cognition is a pretty enjoyable release, it's generally stuff you've heard a few times before, and quite a few of the things that do surprise you just aren't all that good. It's still a good listen all things considered, it won't annoy you as you wait to find the few stunning moments on offer, in fact the wait will be quite enjoyable. There'll just be a lot of waiting...

A decent slab of prog metal. - 77%

duncang, January 26th, 2008

Odds are you haven’t heard Sacrum. They’re a relatively new prog metal band from Buenoes Aires, Argentina. This is their debut full length, Cognition and it’s not quite what you’d expect.

It’s definitely a very familiar progressive/power metal sound, with slickly produced riffs and keyboards and soaring vocals over the top. Instrumentally, the band are very lively and have certainly prepared a solid arsenal of ideas. Some of the riffs are far from original but I find that the drumming of Agustín Sedano Acosta brings them to life and brings them from the realm of dreary into the sort of riff you can tap along to as soon as it kicks in (a prime example of this being “The Dream Prisoner”.) That’s not to say that the band would be weak without this aspect, far from it. Keyboardist Mariano Herraiz plays a perfect role of metal keyboardist: knows what a song really needs from his instrument. There’s none of those overly bombastic and cheesy synth solos but there’s not a chance of him fading into obscurity beneath the bassy mix. In fact, he provides one of the best moments on the album, the main riff to “Sacrvm”.

The bass and guitars certainly have some good chemistry and the production and mixing is very clearly brings out the talent and tone of Diego Cipolla whilst Martín Guerrero (also the producer) still has room to dominate a lot of segments. The only concern I have with any of the songwriting or instrumentalists is the fairly suspicious familiarity of some of the melodies and ideas. For example, the introduction to “In Memory” is almost identical to a section from Dream Theater’s ‘In The Presence Of Enemies Pt. 2’. However, considering the fact that that song is fairly recent, I could certainly give the band benefit of the doubt in that case. Overall though, the familiarity of the sound is only a negative thing if you listen analytically and don’t just sit back and enjoy the music.

The one thing about Sacrum which doesn’t really suit my tastes is the vocalist, Estanislao Silveyra. He’s certainly a talented singer but his voice doesn’t really do it for me, and it seems that a lot of the vocal melodies are rather predictable. However most of this is down to personal taste, so don’t let this put you off buying the album.
Most of the lyrics are introspective and fictional, either about extravagant fantasy or exploration of the self. Reading through, I don’t find any particularly innovative pieces of writing, but the language used is certainly very atmospheric and suits the sound of the band. Seeing as the band are not native English speakers, the sophistication of the language (for the most part) is impressive, and I’m sure with little pushes in the right direction I could find some good and thought provoking meanings in the words, but all I can see upon first impression is ‘epic’ sound language which heightens the sense of grandeur around Cognition.

I think in Sacrum there is a very strong band and a tight unit. However, some inconsistent songwriting (perhaps down to the fact that most of it is down to guitarist Martín Guerrero) bogs down the majority of the album which is an enjoyable listen. Some songs, like the sprawling title track and closing requiem ‘No Turning Back’ are very well constructed but some deadbeat riffs and vocals hold back songs such as ‘Stay’ and ‘Translation’. I hope to see the band reach their full potential in the future.