Author: Gay For Gary Oldman
Label: Scarlet Records
Progressive death metal is kind of my thing. But it’s a difficult style to specify. Some bands play progressive metal with enough distortion and harsh vocals to earn themselves the ‘death’ label, without actually playing music of the death metal genre. And I like it. Some bands play ostensibly technical death metal, simply with enough clean or ambient passages to be considered ‘progressive’. And I like it. But my heart will always belong to that subset of death metal that diversified in the early 90s playing OSDM with weird time signatures, proggy or fusion elements, but never losing that core death metal template.
Sadist are one such of these bands, and their 1993 album Above the Light is considered a must-have of the subgenre. After a 5 year wait since their last album, they return with a brilliant slab of interesting and unique progressive death metal in the form of Hyaena.
With an ever-present theme of African wilderness, Hyaena offers us something not often heard in the genre, with native and tribal elements of mainland Africa, weaved (almost) seamlessly with crisp, modern progressive instrumentation. The production here is amongst the best I’ve ever heard, with the bass being a noticeable presence throughout even the densest death metal passages.
Opener The Lonely Mountain immediately offers up what you can expect from this record, with a complex, noodling guitar pattern backed by a groovy fusion drum line. By the time vocals kick in, you could be forgiven for thinking this album was released 20 years ago, albeit recently remastered. Often wandering into territory eerily similar to mid-era Death, other times conjuring Cynic, one still can’t help but feel that scaling back the distortion and harsh vocals would result in music scarcely dissimilar from Rush. Yet, The Lonely Mountain is still one of the less diverse and interesting tracks on the record.
Spoken word interlude during The Devil Riding the Evil Steed is done so by an African in his native language, set to some primal ambient drumming and finishes with a jazz fusion guitar solo and a somewhat symphonic-death climax. Instrumental track Gadawan Kura could feel like elevator music in Tarzan’s treehouse, and album highlight African Devours opens with one of the grooviest drum line’s I’ve ever heard.
Whilst each track (minus the aforementioned instrumental) presents roughly a similar offering, each track has its own quirks and passages (like the pinch harmonic dives during Eternal Enemies or the prominent bass of Genital Mask) that no track feels like a rehashed repeat of a previous one. A word or warning, however. Sadist make frequent use of keys and synth, and it is often either overpowering in the music, or even completely out of place. Nowhere is this more noticeable than on track 3: Bouki, where the almost-futuristic synth sounds clash terribly with the overall primal and tribal tone that the album often strives for.
This is a small problem in an otherwise excellent album, and I seriously contemplated giving it a perfect score as I thoroughly enjoyed every one of the concisely edited 45 minutes. However, combining the flaw of the synths with the fact that each track, whilst containing unique entities, offers much of the same style, I decided to deduct a single point. This record will still easily make my top 10 or even top 5 this year, and I thoroughly recommend.
- Gay for Gary Oldman
Check them out here: http://www.sadist.it/