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Summon the Tribe with Keyboard-Guided Hymns - 96%

bayern, October 14th, 2018

This was the first Sadist album that I came across; a friend of mine gave it to me describing it as a "landmark achievement in the annals of progressive metal". He didn’t attach any other tag to it, like “black”, or “death”, or “thrash”, or “power”… he also warned me against the lush use of keyboards; intentionally, mind you, as he was very well aware of my open revulsion towards keyboards, synthesizers, and all other similar shite on metal albums. Yeah, at that time I couldn’t stand those, a situation radically altered a few years later once I got exposed to the grandiosity titled “Aegis” (yes, the Theatre of Tragedy magnum opus).

With a name like this I was sure this wasn’t going to be some pompous, overcomplicated histrionics ala Dream Theater, but at the same time I was by no means expecting a truly sadistic elaborate black metal-ish opera ala Cradle of Filth. I guess the truth is somewhere in the middle, clinging more towards the latter largely thanks to the raspy witch-like deathy/blacky vocals that spit curt staccato lines to match the nervy bouncy keyboards on “Escogido”; I detect a hectic jazzy nuance in the riff-patterns alongside a superb bass bottom not far from the ones heard on the Cynic and Atheist endeavours. Add brief, but truly mesmerizing virtuoso lead sections and the picture becomes complete, albeit full of surprises, also making one wonder how this fascinating but fairly elaborate symbiosis would be pulled off on the remaining material...

Yes, it’s progressive metal all right, one that has a solid thrash/deathy base the latter built on mostly mid-tempo, but quite jumpy templates where the melody plays a very prominent role coming from both the keyboard sweeps and the lead pirouettes. Back to the keyboards: they are used profusely, but never annoyingly, and occupy a much bigger space than on Nocturnus’ “The Key”, for instance, where this tool came to play for the first time within a death metal-fixated canvas. However, the only compositions where they take the leading part are the gorgeous instrumental “From Bellatrix to Betelgeuse”, a mesmerizing piece of art that would make anyone from Dream Theater again to Savatage green with envy; and “The Ninth Wave”, a wonderfully dynamic guitarless proposition where the keyboards dexterously dance around the intense drumming and the macabre vicious vocals.

The album is by no means a stranger to more serious, threatening shredding reflected in sinister creepy thrash/deathsters like “Den Siste Kamp” which also boasts the finest leads here, Shrapnel-like etudes of melodic beauty which reach a classical culmination seldom heard elsewhere, the operatic layouts staying around for the contrasting more riff-dense delight that is the title-track, and the short spastic “Spiral of Winter Ghosts” which provides the only more aggressive riffage on the album, with “The Reign of Asmat” in close pursuit with isolated bouts of technical intensity those lost in a supremely catchy, melodic flute-guided motif with the exquisite lead-driven outro adding more to the grandiosity of this immaculately-assembled number.

A truly enchanting piece of music, one that one wouldn’t expect to be produced by a band named Sadist, this opus offered an entirely different interpretation of the death metal canons at a time when the genre was already saturated with both extreme brutality and dazzling technical exuberance. It finds its cosy place between the two sides looking at both, but in a bemused, curious rather than a hungry apprentice-like manner; simply because the guys were only too well aware of their capabilities, and of what they exactly wanted to achieve. They were ultimately looking at a more expansive genre definition with the “death” tag not taking a very central position, and not only due to the keyboard-infused scenery. To place this opus next to other style-bending works like Cynic’s “Focus”, Pestilence’s “Spheres”, and Atheist’s “Elements” would probably be fair to a large extent, but the riff execution here is a tad more linear and the melodic tendencies are way more accentuated on, and not only because of the keyboard presence time and again, making this effort the most atmospheric proposition of this lot.

In fact, there’s literally an over-abundance of melodies all over, stylistic reliance that may annoy the die-hard death metal fanbase, but if you think of it the band have never been the most scholastic death metal provider on the planet: the debut straddles between thrash and death the whole time frankly opting for a more thrash-peppered delivery for more than half the time, and the follow-up “Crust” is an “alien”, extraterrestrial entity in itself, defying strict categorization. Each instalment, all the way to the most recent “Hyaena”, walks its own individualistic path the guys possessing this uncanny ability to not repeat themselves, and yet to preserve the core Sadistic tools of the trade, making every encounter with them a surprise, largely a pleasant one excluding this ill-calculated “lego puzzle”…

In other words, there’s no end to musical “sadism” in whatever way these fabulous Italianos choose to serve it; we’ll be lining up to either readily devour the next portion of contrived shredding intricacy, or to obliviously bathe in another poignant keyboard-infused “shower”.

Keyboard-driven death metal? - 69%

differer, November 25th, 2008

Italy’s Sadist were among some of the best-kept secrets of death metal until their comeback last year. During the last decade or so, their early albums have been frequently used by some music journalists as examples of insanely complex song structures; while this is true, I doubt if too many people were even aware of the band at that point, which makes the comment rather meaningless.

As is usually the case with progressive death metal, the music here is anything but brutal, and ‘death’ is a characteristic of the vocals alone. Not that this is a bad thing in itself, but I would have liked to hear something a bit heavier. The emphasis is on awkward rhythms and simplistic melodies rather than complicated guitar riffs, making this album somewhat an oddity even in its own genre. The frequent use of “heavy” keyboard riffs without a guitar accompaniment at all is another strange factor. ‘The Ninth Wave’, for example, has to be the only death metal song I’ve ever heard where the guitar doesn’t appear even once! Also, there are remarkably few solos. The guitarist certainly knows how to play his instrument, but keyboards still remain the main thing.

The objections I have to ‘Tribe’ deal with two things. First, the vocals. While the vocalist having a noticeable accent shouldn’t be surprising, he uses his voice in high-pitched screams in a “spit the words out”-type manner, which I personally dislike. Also, he has some problems in keeping the output “raw”, especially in some faster parts. Another thing is the drum work. The guy can beat the skins as well as most, but has often trouble fitting his beats to the music, resulting in a not-too-fluent style, at times literally breaking the song’s momentum. As weird as it may seem, it is the bassist who most of time holds things together – regardless of his “jazzy” finger-practice routines.

As for songwriting, this album is a two-edged sword. Any fans of experimental music know that in order to break the rules, one has to know them first. Sadist does not. The song structures seem to have been put together more or less at random, making it sound like the band has little or no idea of what they’re doing. On the other hand, there are a good number of real musical ideas here, ranging from decent to pure genius. It is up to the listener to decide whether or not it’s enough – I happen to think it is, but many will almost certainly disagree.

I have to say that, initially, I liked Sadist’s music more than I do now. This was back in 1996, when I more or less accidentally managed to hear two of the songs from this album. It may be because the sounds – in particular in the case of keyboards – seem really out-of-date... or maybe because this is far less extraordinary music nowadays. The first time around, Sadist was a unique band. I suggest you give it a try yourself; in any case, ‘Tribe’ can be recommended (with some reservations) to those who don’t take their death metal dogmatically.