Review: This is heavy and beautiful, flowing black metal from Sweden reminiscent at times of At The Gates, but that comparison is mainly from the harmonic ability and melodic sensibility combined with the speed of strumming more than a statement of similar goals. Like the closest things to this, Dissection and Immortal, these Swedes make from a hybrid of heavy metal and current death/black technique a style in which melodic phrasing and shape of tonal construction alone weigh in above the milieu.
Below the guitar is the structural sympathy with nonlinear ideas of rhythm, an intensely experimental drive to the music. Guitar playing here is frenetically rhythmic, whether at speed or in one of the slower, more melodic parts that help to form the sense of power behind this music, which builds intensity and then drops it or modulates it with amazing instrumental sections of running guitars, shifting drums and overall rhythmic and harmonic collusion toward producing a bafflingly beautiful but dark music.
It is "heavy" for those who can appreciate heaviness as music having manic intensity and insanely complex ideas for its artistic rendition. Excellent instrumentalism and an aesthetic that is easy to like enwrap oddly conventional European folk- and classically-influenced melodies in an end product that synthesizes logic and emotion in sonic scultpure. The power behind it is the insightful ways that it forms this into something dark and, underneath aesthetic, progressing beyond the predictable conventions.
Produced by Dan Swäno as the first release for Sacramentum, this EP exudes youthful brilliance and ambition with unconventional and sometimes unsteady but never unstudied songwriting and exploration of emotion and form in art, wielding to great effect signs of forward motion in the otherwise cloned-out genre of Swedish melodic metal (to be fair, Sacramentum and Dissection were ahead of the rest and correspondingly, more coherent and conceptualized in their musical approach). Where there is beauty and the romanticism that embraces death and demons as part of the adventure and epic potential for disaster or triumph at any second of life, there is a heartsurge with the thoughtfulness and emotional lucidity of this band.
Review: Sacramentum emerged as a wave of bands attempting to reinfuse black metal with its inherent melodicity approaching the integration of complexity in a manner dissimilar to that of subgenre public figure Dissection who eschewed the evolution in modern black metal by making more rock-like metal music with intricacy and classical touches. In more of the evolutionary curve of the black metal movement Sacramentum expanded from their classic melodic black metal effort, "Finis Malorum," to make rhythmically Dissection-inspired music with a more sublime interpretation of the classical atonal lineage to black metal.
1. Fog's Kiss
2. Far Away From The Sun
3. Blood Shall Be Spilled
4. When Night Surrounds Me
5. Cries From a Restless Soul
6. Obsolete Tears
7. Beyond All Horizons
8. The Vision and the Voice
9. Outro - Darkness Falls For Me/Far Away From the Sun
The challenge to this form of music requires an intensity of thematic development absent from more recent Dissection material but here present in the artistic interpretation of black metal's romanticist melodrama, the presence of great and often unresolved but wistfully harmonious themes. Songs are distinct and cohesive, with surprises in how well each collection of structures sound in sequence; playing is meticulous execution of intricacy outside-head (finger motions, tempo shifts, chord changes) as well as inside-head (abstract conception, intellectual development, structural awareness). In each arch and beautiful song is an epic of fantastic permutation and emotional development of thematic codices, while in each song also is some form of a vibrant energetic death and black metal insurgency, mating all of the brains and all of the blast in this incarnation of metal.
To some this overtly passionate statement might seem adolescent, but to this reviewer it is the expression of maturity stultified by an unimaginative, robotic, unexciting world transformed by artistic diligence and inspiration to address the fundamental issues in life which those in denial would rather ignore: mortality, the essence of existence, the experience of living, the desire for experience. Combined with excellent playing, brilliant conception, and a powerful variety through distinctiveness of invention, this makes for an amazing vision of creation and Sacramentum have brought it manifest in a lucid but emotive tribute to the rebellious humanness of soul.
Review: While melodic metal devolves to theatrical gestures and gothic harmonic sensibilities a vantage point of its composition and origins can be had in observation of Sacramentum, who have modulated from a more classically-influenced rock-structured black metal band in the vein of Dissection to a brilliant hybrid of black metal's rhythmic drive, death metal's architecture, the melodic variability shared by both black metal and classical music, and the driving sense of motion riff rhythms originated by speed metal bands.
To incorporate a distributed structure Sacramentum bend their melodies into visions of a changing beast through a language of high-speed, intensely melodic, violent and atonal riffs producing through their collective interpretation a vision of ephemeral affinity vanishing in the distintegration of tone, a worldscape of violent self-recreation. These support the often simple but epic song structures emphasizing the fundamental cycles of organisms fighting for existence in a predominantly wasted world of need and opportunity. From speed metal, however, comes the ability to manage the weight of these collected structures through shifting and radically variant tempos that hold together by maintaining the fundamental rhythmic shape of each song's dominant melodic framework, as expressed in the riff.
Vocals are a black metal rasp and invidual playing is distinctive and for the most part, very impressive; from the tight riffing of the guitars to the protean drumming, an adept and alert voice keeping up conversation behind the complexity of guitar communication, all the way to melodic shadowing through expertly synchronized bass playing. Through a combination of enlightened composition and careful production work the complexity of multiple guitar tracks is preserved despite heavy distortion and deliberate atmospheric diffusion of both layers.
To call this an excellent black metal band would be doing Sacramentum less than justice - these are innovators and creators of powerful and distinctive metal, material that holds its essence from their idealistic and progressive first EP to the acclaimed and vastly creative, "Far Away from the Sun," the first Sacramentum full-length, released on Adipocere, continuing as evolution to "The Coming of Chaos," which integrates band history and consistent direction in a style that retains all of the power, violence, and lifespirit of classic bands throughout metal's generations.
Review: Sensing the futility of maintaining aesthetic identity as a black metal band, Sacramentum have added a musical and yet muscular speed metal to their mix of heavy metal in the Iron Maiden style and progressive black metal, letting the voices of morbid assault ring out over urgent riffs and racing drums. The result is a fusion of musics that embodies what metal has always held as emotional values, drawing a continuity through the experience in the same way that "In the Heart of Winter" by Immortal points to their earlier "Battles in the North."
1. Iron Winds
2. The Manifestation
3. Shun The Light
6. Death Obsession (Black Destiny Part ][ )
7. Spiritual Winter
8. Rapturus Paradise (Peccata Mortali)
9. Weave Of Illusion
10. Thy Black Destiny
Songs follow standard song patterns wrapped around whatever device centralizes the piece, and depending on the dynamic demands of that advice borrow mechanism from various parts of the metal tradition. Most verse riffs are classic heavy metal with the muffled strumming and gallop rhythm of speed metal, but over choruses and interludes Sacramentum infuse the melodic decompression and exuberance of structural inventiveness, hailing back to their majestic "Far Away From the Sun." Each rhythm folds carefully into an interlocking structure of cadences that allows this band to present their trademark vocals reciting verse of both violence and stagnation. The heft of interconnected vocals and adeptly convoluted riffing presents a series of spaces in which vocals match harmony within riff construction and thus help forming a change in scenery and resonance. Cleft phrases and neatly tucked melodic couplings sustain the interiors of songs carrying a weight of transitional phrasing and extensive solos which borrow from neoclassical traditions in a blues context. A series of rumbling rhythm riffs will emerge into the introduction for a figure integrating essential harmonic devices within the scale to the rhythm at which it is presented, a motif which will remain untouched through the next three stanzas despite the commentary of paired riff and transitional fragment figures. Abruptly, in the middle of a change, its momentum is seized by a quick touch of harmonic series and then a change to a conduit phrase which in pace and shape of melodic motion emphasizes the vast and powerful, before a conveyance through verse to transition which introduces the final pattern in which instrumental layers begin to correspond and synchronize for finality.
While this work drops out of any specific genre to become the dreaded Swedish melodic metal, its essential values of extremity and beauty are still expressed, although in something closer to what most listeners can handle than the glorious excesses of emotion and technicality that were past albums. Still superb musicians, these sonic warriors continue to carve an enigmatic path through the remnants of epic metal.