Production: Rich, basement style of subdued room sound, with searing guitar tone.
Review: During the early days of death metal, Sinister resolved the seemingly infinite gap between fast melodic bands and those who used more explosive, choppy rhythms, creating a unique sound in which percussive rage and distant but precise melodies complement each other in a trading of aggressive incursions toward a central theme. In doing so, the band created a varied texture with dynamics and the structural benefits of melody, crafting mazes of riffs that expanded in context and so made each successive riff explain the previous ones in a new light.
1. Carnificina Scelesta (1:30)
2. Perennial Mourning (2:58)
3. Sacramental Carnage (2:59)
4. Doomed (5:10)
5. Spiritual Immolation (3:28)
6. Cross the Styx (4:53)
7. Compulsory Resignation (3:51)
8. Corridors to the Abyss (2:08)
9. Putrefying Remains (3:21)
10. Epoch of Denial (3:45)
11. Perpetual Damnation (4:12)
12. Outro (0:51)
While many of these structures are rotational, they avoid riff/chorus for a sense of letting vocals guide each song between motifs, using a complex series of tempo changes to create discursive and introductory riffs which lead through a series of similar riffs back to the riff most clearly associated with verse or chorus. Adept changes of direction, and brief appearances by riffs commenting on their parents, allow this band to demonstrate their versatility in making a multitude of technical riffs fit together into song.
The smooth fusion of the chaotic elements of death metal into a new style defines this album. From the Americas, it borrows the bursting riffs of Sepultura and the thunderous recursion of Deicide, while showing influences from Slayer as well, but into this it mixes the rich European tradition of neoclassical melody and Gothic theatricism as found in Destruction and Massacra, and Sinister merge these into a technical, musical and muscular form of death metal which flows together smoothly, making this album a landmark for the genre.
Production: Loud, thick and rigid.
Review: After their legenday first album, Sinister improved instrumental precision, and feeling thus liberated assaulted their listeners with an album of reasonably technical riffs tied together by a hookish melody in the style associated with bands such as Gorefest, Dismember and early Gorguts. While these songs are sparse in the gestalt that might unify their driving rhythm riffs and the "old world" style peripatetic melodies to which they are joined with the support infrastructure, this album has its peaks of beauty and power that find compare nowhere else in death metal.
1. Sadistic Intent (4:11)
2. Magnified Wrath (4:08)
3. Diabolical Summoning (3:50)
4. Sense of Demise (4:15)
5. Leviathan (5:28)
6. Desecrated Flesh (4:10)
7. Tribes of the Moon (3:15)
8. Mystical Illusions (3:55)
While these songs often seem too sparse in their constructive affinity the essential tendencies in songbuilding are beating under the thick skin with a passionate heart, even if the end product like later Gorefest often ends up disassociated in its joining of complex cyclic themes. Vocals are iron-tough and levelled at the listener directly with a gravely dead monotone. Percussion remains adept but vigorously underscores key points of phrase almost too directly, including the rushing percussive riff barrages that are reminiscent of Malevolent Creation.
Of all death metal in the second wave, this album and Gorefest remained unique for their dedication to well-structured, orderly, rhythmically hookish but not offbeat-marionette phrases which used neo-baroque melodies in power chords and tremolo-picked lead rhythm riffing. This contributes an otherworldly air to a band that too often tries to throw in interstitial extremity as a means of competing with the death metal field at the time. Taken as a whole, this album was a wise transition between Cross the Styx and the more discretely compact compositions of Hate.
Production: Clean and compactly loud.
Review: As death metal dropped in popularity under the rising black metal movement, Sinister took the time to experiment with a hybrid of brutal deathgrind and the harmonically-centered melodic compositions that defined European metal. As was the case with Suffocation, rhythms echo the intent of speed metal and merge it to a Florida-heavy band with the precision of many European epic outfits, crafting clean melodic lines and an intricate meshing of rhythms which suggests an elaborate manifesto of hatred.
1. Intro (1:36)
2. Awaiting the Absu (7:06)
3. Embodiment of Chaos (3:55)
4. Art of the Damned (5:18)
5. Unseen Darkness (4:21)
6. 18th Century Hellfire (4:01)
7. To Mega Therion (4:33)
8. The Cursed Mayhem (3:03)
9. The Bloodfeast (5:54)
Rhythmically picked lead patterns build to powerchords of either the resonant low end or the harmonizing properties of upper-degree chords; as bassist Bart has taken over guitar, he adds new chord shapes in a somewhat unconventional way, giving the areas between buffeting muted strum a lushness and polydirectionality. The raw and charging power of thundering fretruns meets arrangements which pit accumulated potential energy against absorptive negativity summoned through ambiguous dissonance or abrupt, chromatic explosions of unrelenting terse intonations of power chord, reverberating in the grinding melodic nullity of their attack.
Repetition, tempered by an inventive sense of contrast and epic confrontations in riffing, defines how this album pushes the limit between American-style football death metal and the shuddering, stalwart attackers that bands like Seance, Morgoth and Grave flung forth from the European continent. Although many songs sound veritably taped together in their hasty re-use of themes, the craft of songwriting is such that the repetition becomes an artistic device instead of a default. Combined with dramatic tempo and tonal changes, its textures suggest conflict, continuity and ending of the experience through their inclination toward resolving the essential thematic wounds of each piece.
What further propels this album is the cumulative stress and lust for release contributed by the intensity with which themes become inexorable, dominant and terrifying, the perception common to metal of a world coming apart in thunderous disharmony. In the same way that Deicide albums would knead their listeners into their chairs or straightjackets, the later works of Sinister beat on any hope of sonic equilibrium with a capricious and beautifully abstracted violence. Given a chance, this band took a risk and made a far-reaching statement received gratefully by headbangers worldwide.
Production: Clear and bountiful tones without any resonance, a modern type dissonant clean room studio. As each instrument speaks clearly however, there is no issue except with the mixing, which with the usual perversity overemphasizes other elements.
Review: Capitalizing on the success of their previous album Hate, Sinister approach it with an EP comprised of two re-recorded songs from their exalted first album Cross the Styx and two new songs plus introduction in the now-trademark style of Hate, which represented an apex of popularity for this longstanding underground act.
Previously, Sinister's sophomore effort Diabolical Summoning showed a band caught in the grip of artistic potential but slipping dangerously close to irrelevance through indecision regarding style, and thus the voice they would use to make their works; in some ways this EP is reminiscent of that time, when lack of unifying direction reduced songs to a few cool bits of riffs wandering in seas of ashen, contextless chords collapsing on top of one another like shingles of an incompetent roof.
Each of the new songs bears similarities to heavy rotation tracks on Hate if mixed with radio heavy metal, using the abrupt strumming riffs of a death metal band to potentiate rhythm closer to the eternally popular style of Exodus or Exhorder than death metal; by putting the expectation in a riff on a off-time double strum, Sinister achieve a catchy bounciness similar to material in more of a commercial metal vein, like rock and funk which are entirely expectation-driven. Both pieces fashion characteristically abusive mutations of chord progressions into elemental boomerang riffs, and hold together rhythmically where composition falters.
The previously-composed songs from the first album of this Dutch band, "Cross the Styx" and "Epoch of Denial," reveal Sinister trying to adapt their new sonic voice to a previous style of death metal, breaking it down where necessary to keep the rigidity and vocal-dominance of newer stylings to the band -- and on the whole, slowing each track down for comprehensibility. While this CD demonstrates the simple power of this seductive sub-style to the aggressive front of death metal, it becomes fixated on the style and having made that the goal, allows the content to drift closer to boring mainstream rock/metal.
1. Intro (The Upcoming) (1:14)
2. Aggressive Measures (3:44)
3. Beyond the Superstition (2:57)
4. Into the Forgotten (3:43)
5. Enslave the Weak (4:33)
6. Fake Redemption (3:19)
7. Chained in Reality (4:38)
8. Emerged with Hate(2:37)
9. Blood Follows the Blood (4:18)
Aggressive Measures (Nuclear Blast, 1998)
Within the compact delivery system for pounding yet thoughtful metal in the style of their shattering Hate, Sinister expand song structures and move away from any kind of harmonic centering of structural elements in song. The beauty in storming emptiness is gone, replaced by pounding death metal periodically accented by a riff using melodic intervals, with more of the bouncy heavy metal rhythms that audiences like. Abrupt patterns drop into punchy encoding of central rhythm in fragmentary derivates, or lightly take off into tremolo picked ripping speed riffs. Vocals are coughing blurt and guttural accompay the development of verse and chorus. Where necessary, songs mutate in structure, but this does not occur to an unusual degree and thus Sinister make here a more straightforward album with more linear detail than the complex imaginings of their previous works.
1. Relic of Possession (1:49)
2. Bleeding Towards the Wendigo (2:50)
3. Creative Killings (3:56)
4. Judicious Murder (3:36)
5. Reviving the Dead (5:12)
6. Early Gothic Horror (4:26)
7. Moralistic Suffering (2:50)
8. Altering the Beast (4:30)
9. Season of the Wicked (3:06)
10. Storm in my Mind (Possessed cover) (3:56)
Creative Killings (Hammerheart, 2001)
Trying simultaneously to recapture their peak, the 1996 album Hate, and capture some of the audience that happily purchase Cannibal Corpse and other blasting death metal, Sinister revert by a half-degree from the more populist Aggressive Measures and make a simplified but more coherent death metal album. New vocalist Rachel acquits herself well, although vocals appear processed or pitch-shifted, which gives the music a misplaced "cyber" feel. Unlike their epic Cross the Styx, this album centers itself on a riff/chorus style with a series of bridges that break flow and detour into brief slices of atmosphere as a counter-argument to the mostly fast, three-chord riffs that provide the basis of verse riffs and in variant, the chorus. This infuses the driving, anthemic, repetitive style of later speed metal like Destruction into the death metal, and while it vastly improves upon their previous work by being focused, its relative emptiness makes these songs sound forced as if adapting to a single riff without enough harmonic context to build a broader experience. Funeral Mist adapted this technique to great use on their first albums; this album may be Sinister's best work since the epic Hate, but it still falls well short into repetitive structures being repeated.
1. Rise of the Predator (intro) (2:16)
2. Savage or Grace (2:36)
3. Barbaric Order (3:48)
4. The Age of Murder (3:18)
5. Conception of Sin (5:21)
6. Chapel Desecration (3:40)
7. Dominion (3:31)
8. Collapse Rewind (3:05)
9. Apocalypse in Time (2:51)
Savage or Grace (Nuclear Blast, 2003)
With this album Sinister lost longtime guitarist Bart, and Ron van der Pol rejoined after an absence since the first album. As a result, riffs and use of timing have improved, but the style approximates the previous album and the content is hasty, as if not ruminated on from concept to execution, but discovered midway through execution and elaborated upon, like jamming on a riff instead of making a riff to sound like what the song is about. With the style of death metal Sinister want to make, this veers dangerously close to riff salad with melodic trimmings. Noticeably, the second half of the album improves upon the first with simpler songs that fit together better rhythmically, and with its reduced bounce factor, is able to complete more intricate variations on its riffs, giving a nice textured sound. But this will not hold up to repeated listens as earlier Sinister did because it is less organized.
1. The Grey Massacre (4:16)
2. Altruistic Suicide (5:14)
3. Men Down (6:02)
4. Afterburner (4:55)
5. Presage of the Mindless (7:37)
6. Into Submission (5:17)
7. The Riot Crossfire (3:50)
8. Flesh of the Servant (7:47)
Afterburner (Nuclear Blast, 2006)
Personnel shifts now have a new guitarist and drummer, while previous drummer Aad switches to vocals, and not surprisingly the band changes toward more what they teach guitarists to do for death metal these days -- fast melodic riffing and then very basic, like cutting a loaf of bread, rhythm riffs which use the muted strum to emphasize a mid-paced rhythm that underscores the melody. It works too well, because it's about where creative efforts stop, and the resulting lack of focus on mating form to content allows this band to essentially remake the best heavy metal riffs of the 1970s in an updated rhythmic/textural style that does not enhance them, nor do they fit within it. Something about this album resembles a bin of prosthetic limbs, all fit to different people, and coming together on nothing other than their basic form, which imitates the absent wearers. However, for those who want basic rock/metal technique, this album showcases it creatively and in a more extreme form than most will find.
1. Republic of the Grave (5:29)
2. Summit of Sacrifice (6:52)
3. Fortified Bravery (6:16)
4. The Silent Howling (10:16)
5. The Kill to Come (5:57)
6. Palace of the Fates (6:19)
7. If It Bleeds (6:37)
The Silent Howling (Massacre, 2008)
The Iron Maiden tendencies that swallow this album represent the last step in the process that began with Bastard Saints: in a desire to make their band more popular, Sinister viewed the extreme style they created on Hate as a template into which they could inject the type of material aboveground heavy metal fans enjoyed. The theory was that then they'd be able to be both extreme underground and successful aboveground, but the sad truth is that the two mix poorly, and the end result is successively assimilated by the simplest ancestor of both styles. With The Silent Howling, Sinister evolve -- remember that evolution includes devolution and extinction in its palette of possibilities -- into melodic heavy metal with death metal techniques, meaning that it has nothing in common with the compositional style and scalar approach of death metal. As a result, their longtime audience turned off and the "new" Sinister was too close to too many other bands to be unique, and so they exited stage left after this rather uninspired release.
Production: Varies from recordings made in a cardboard box under a freeway overpass to reasonable studio recordings.
Review: Comprised of all Sinister material smaller than an album leading up to the release of their first CD, The Blood Past is not a retrospective but a collector's and diehard Sinister fan's release, and like the best of those, lets us see this band emerge from the hazy collision of their influences. The titles read like a sestina, because fifteen out of nineteen tracks are the same five songs repeated in different order as they were on the seven inches, EPs and demos included here.
Putrefying Remains/Spiritual Immolation 7" EP (1990)
1. Putrefying Remains (3:49)
2. Spiritual Immolation (4:03)
Sinister 7" EP (1990)
3. Compulsory Resignation (3:54)
4. Spiritual Immolation (3:40)
5. Putrefying Remains (3:29)
Perpetual Damnation demo (1990)
6. Putrefying Remains (4:06)
7. Spiritual Immolation (3:38)
8. Compulsory Resignation (4:33)
9. Perpetual Damnation (4:02)
Split with Monastery 7" EP (1991)
10. Perpetual Damnation (4:02)
11. Putrefying Remains (3:22)
Sacramental Carnage demo (1991)
12. Sacramental Carnage (3:05)
13. Epoch of Denial (3:42)
14. Lacivious Desolation (5:13)
15. Perpetual Damnation (4:10)
16. Compulsory Resignation (3:56)
17. Putrefying Remains (3:31)
18. Spiritual Immolation (3:40)
4 Way Split Sampler 7" EP (1992)
19. Corridors to the Abyss (2:05)
For those touched by the vision of potential in early Sinister, The Blood Past provides an opportunity to watch these songs emerge from the primordial formative state. First, the musicianship improves, and the songs get more distinct; then the composition improves, and the songs hold together more; finally, the sense of aesthetic and artistry improves, and the moods and dark theatre emanate from songs that previously lacked it. At that point, the songs are essentially as they were on Cross the Styx, but it is rewarding to see them evolve along with the skills of their creators.
Like early Sinister, these songs inhabit a twilit zone between old school death metal, the new wave of Suffocation-inspired brutal metal, and the technical death metal like Pestilence or Atheist that used complex guitar rhythms and evolving, motif-driven structures to make a new way of writing music. As the songs mature, these three elements join into a single voice, one that can easily balance a sense of the raw feral id of humanity within a logical framework of mathematically-derived tempi and architectural phrase. This CD is a fascinating viewport into the history of death metal.