REVIEW: SINISTER – “Syncretism”
As I trace the trajectory of Sinister’s journey, I realize that it resembles the fate of a typical metal band from the late 80’s. They made a mark with a killer debut, and conquered the underground with the subsequent two releases, making the first three albums a benchmark for the rest of their discography. Then came a slight dip with their fourth release ‘Aggressive Measures’, where although they delivered a promising record but didn’t measure up to their legacy. They were criticized for diluting their own essence and imitating the style of other bands (namely Suffocation) in their compositions. From there on it was pretty much downhill with the final nail in the coffin in the form of ‘Savage or Grace’, after which the band disbanded. Most of the fans had written off the band by this time, and it seemed that the band had almost buried itself in its grave. However, a reunion two years later with frontman Aad Kloosterwaard was like a hand springing out from the grave, resurrecting this monster back to life. After their reunion, the band released some supremely powerful records, like ‘Afterburner’, ‘The Carnage Ending’ and most recently ‘The Post-Apocalyptic Servant’ in 2014.
A band having almost 30 years of history and having thrived during the 90’s golden era of Death Metal, leaves me beyond doubt that they definitely possess the firepower to blow us away, and that is exactly what they promise in their brand new release titled ‘Syncretism’ out on February 24th via Nuclear Blast records. ‘Syncretism’ makes it very clear from the apocalyptic imagery in the album artwork that this is going to be one nightmarish ride through hell. Depicting a witch burning ceremony in a fiery red sky filled with hellish creatures, the album artwork is one of the most detailed works ever seen on a Sinister album before.
Sinister is not a stranger to occult and dark religious themes and on ‘Syncretism’, they raise it up a notch both lyrically as well as the overall aesthetics and atmosphere. The album starts off with an intriguingly haunting instrumental in “Neurophobic”, slowly building up the tension to culminate into a grinding buzz-saw riffage that is sure to bring a grimace on your face. It doesn’t take too long before you find yourself clenching your fists and headbanging to this killer opener. Orchestral elements have always been a part of Sinster’s sound but on this album, it is much more homogenous to the composition. There are several moments where they play a pivotal role in the overall ambience of the song. The band successfully blends in the lightning fast grinding Death Metal riffage with the melodic contrast of the orchestral elements almost sounding like a Blackened Death Metal band at some points. Take the title track “Syncretism” for example. It meanders between the groovy, faster Death Metal riffage and the slower and atmospheric orchestral portions supported by some kickass work behind the kit. The overall sound is relentless as well as beautifully haunting. Another example is “Rite of the Blood Eagle”. Although for most parts it relentlessly bludgeons our ear drums with pure old school Death Metal mayhem, but its ending is truly epic.
The production is a nice mix of dirty drony Death Metal ruggedness and epic melodic orchestration delivering the best of both worlds, which is not a minor feat considering the sound the band is known for. I never felt that the band has traded away or diluted its raw aggressive self for a more cleaner or epic avatar, yet, the orchestral arrangements are very much in the forefront and part of the mix. Dennis Hartog and Bastiaan Brussaard are impressive in creating a tight rhythm section, and along with drummer Toep Duin, they never let go of the groove pedal resulting in some pretty intense moments along the length of the album. Aad Kloosterwaard’s guttural might too is an unstoppable force on this record. So overall a very tight performance by the band in this 13th offering that is sure to restore any lost faith in fans.
Sinister deliver a monster in ‘Syncretism’. Combining old school Death Metal mayhem and epic orchestral arrangements, the band offers the best of both worlds which is sure to appeal to older fans as well as garner them some new ones. Almost 30 years of existence and 13 full length albums later, this band is finding a second wind of sorts clearly putting away any doubts we had of them slip away into oblivion.