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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”.