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Entirely conventional black metal - 73%

erebuszine, May 1st, 2013

Sargeist are from Finland, and lately I haven't been that impressed by Finnish bands. I don't really know why exactly, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that so many of them seem to be content to just comment on what Swedish or Norwegian bands were doing 6-10 years ago... and there has never really been a "national" identity or cohesive style to this country's output. No one learned from Beherit! That is a good thing in one sense as it means there aren't as many "controls" on the individual musician's attempts at expression, but it also means that there isn't a widely-available musical language to make composing and creating easier. Each artist has to begin from the first process of attempting a novel conception, ratifying their own ingenuity, experimenting, trying to come up with a viable, working sound, etc. It takes a great deal of time. I think most bands just get tired of the entire individual sojourn, the creative "journey", and give up. I also don't know if there is any kind of unified collective, scene or structured fusion of musicians in Finland that would advise and inspire each other. Everyone seems to be completely isolated in that bleak country. In any case, what these things have meant for the past 5 years at least is: a few good bands, original, trying something new, working from their own internal/personal inspiration, creating their own effective solipsistic languages, and then a befuddled legion of other copycat bands who, like I said above, are satisfied with just xeroxing Darkthrone once again.

I don't pick up on a lot of Darkthrone on this record [good!]... what is strange is I actually hear Gorgoroth, which is interesting in that I don't come across that many bands that reference [or who admit the influence of] that primal, insane unit. The guitar sound, the sedately-paced riffs, the stab at rousing anthem-like melodies, the song structures, etc. all remind me of Infernus's contribution to the Norwegian black lexicon. The guitar sound, which might be from "Pentagram" or "Antichrist", only smoothed out and compressed, is slightly atypical for a black metal band. The distortion has been rolled back and the result is more jangling, clear, disjointed, crass, loose, simple. I'm tempted to reference a few British pop groups but I'll refrain from embarrassing both of us. The riffing itself is completely standardized, archetypal [some would say "classic"], traditional, and yet is highly effective because it both works on its own, from its own merits, and it is constantly consulting older works which you have heard and which you still have dark emotional ties to. Every little corner and slice of this record will awaken in your brain those decade-old memories of hearing the Norwegians for the first time, etc. The music is evocative and structured well, almost expertly. The melodies [here I mean their own individual identities, aside from what past they refer to] are not exactly exciting and moving - but they are mildly stirring, they cause a certain quickening of the pulse. There's something there. The guitar sound and the main motifs of the songs also seem to radiate a morbid French Black Legions influence and that's always welcome. Then there's the main "folk" melody throughout the eighth track, "Sargeist", which is just bizarre. Could Sargeist by trying to draw another line from their style to... the Polish or Russian bands?

While the hype typed/propped up by Moribund calls this an overwhelmingly "cold" album I never really interpret/feel it that way. Sure, the guitars sound chilly [boost the treble and reverb, hollow out the midrange, it's always the same] but the music in itself, the melodies, are almost happy at times [heresy!]... they are always sentimental or mawkishly nostalgic. Strange. In fact there are many parts on this album where... if the segments were just played with acoustic guitars you would be excused for thinking Sargeist was a wailing country band. I like it.

The best songs for me on this record are the first, the title track, which is so much like a blood-rousing anthem that it could be this band's "Transilvanian Hunger" [and is in my opinion the best song this band will ever write], the fourth, "Frowning, Existing", which might not be this band's work as it has a star next to the title on the back of the promo, although there isn't a footnote below to explain [it also sounds unlike the other songs, it's very catchy and pop-like, almost a punk tune], and then the last two tracks, the aforementioned eponymous eighth and then the ninth and final, which I referred to in the beginning of this review. Eight songs, four standout tracks, one intro that starts out well but then is mired in senselessness by an echoing scream that sounds like a bird having its feathers pulled out, and a little more than half an hour of entirely conventional black metal. Such is Sargeist's "Satanic Black Devotion". Enjoy.


Erebus Magazine