Sacral Rage – Illusions of Infinite Void
Location: Athens, Greece
Label: Cruz del Sur Music
Wearing your influences upon your sleeve can be perceived in a negative light when they are followed so closely that the work appears as nothing more than a cheap imitation. Sacral Rage have avoided this, as they both honour and learn from the efforts of their predecessors, while still implementing their own unique style that keeps their sound fresh and interesting.
The most obvious source of inspiration in this record is to be found in the likes of early Annihilator. The whole album falls perfectly in step with the tempo of Never, Neverland, with guitars that come storming in at terminal velocity, percussion that never rests upon a consistent beat, and a sinister bass line lurking in the rafters. There are even some melodic, almost hollow-sounding guitar riffs that simply reek of Jeff Waters (in a good way). The vocals exist mostly as a high pitched shriek that, unfortunately, lacks substance and possesses a light, airy quality. When the singer isn’t attempting to rocket through the ceiling, the vocals find themselves at a mid-range chant that manages to keep pace with the unpredictable speed of the instrumental.
A particular standout track is “Into Mental East,” which begins with spoken word that has a feel of Star Trek dialogue about it. The track is an instrumental turning point for the album, adding progressive elements to the pre-existing thrash. It is like a sped up version of Opeth’s Orchid, with far forward bass lines and a concise percussion, yet also all over the map. The additional flavours only work in the band’s favour, as they prevent the sound from becoming stagnated and create a feeling of direction and movement in the album.
As Sacral Rage’s first LP, Illusions in Infinite Void is a huge success. The album showcases exceptional musicianship and an ample amount of clarity and organic development in the progression of the sound. Illusions in Infinite Void will most likely be finding its way into my rotation for at least the next month or so.
Freedomination – The Stand EP
Label: Cruz del Sur Music
The worldwide resurgence in traditional heavy metal has been simply astonishing. It seems like new bands channeling the spirit of the NWOBHM keep popping up every week and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. Australia’s Convent Guilt are the latest entry into the fray and, while there are weak points to be found in their debut album Guns for Hire, there’s also a lot to be admired and appreciated.
While there’s not much in the album that’s especially unique or different, the album excels at invoking the general vibe and ethos of bands like Angel Witch, Soldier, and Traitor’s Gate. The earthy, rumbling guitar tone, the subtle but bouncing bass, the marching drum work, the foggy production; it’s all blatant worship for that by-gone era. Down to the songs themselves, it’s all stuff that you’ve heard before. It’s like a greatest hits compilation in which all the songs have been slightly re-written. Convent Guilt may not have found their own unique twist just yet, but they’ve got an incredibly solid base to work from.
The weakest part of the affair lies in vocalist Iron Belshaw. He is by no means a bad singer, evoking the same naive, youthful exuberance as his compatriots. However, he does at times fall in to this flat, toneless mid-voice that lacks depth or real excitement. This makes certain parts of the album take a dive in terms of its atmosphere. While I feel like this is the kind of problem that will be remedied with further experience, it nevertheless dampens what could have been a superb first album.
Convent Guilt’s debut shows a lot of potential. Despite its flaws it succeeds in being a more engrossing document than some of the more popular, major-label traditional metal documents that I’ve heard over the last few years. Check it out if you’re down for some excellent, if slightly derivative, old-school devilry.