Country: The Netherlands
Style: Death Metal
Release Date: 29 May 2020
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While Dutch death metal band Sinister were founded as far back as 1988, they didn't issue their highly regarded debut until 1992, as I was drifting away from what I felt was becoming a stale genre, mostly because of the limiting factor of the vocals. Nowadays, I'm finding a fresh appreciation for the old school form of death metal, the one that doesn't need any prefixes, and I'm happy to say that Sinister are a fantastic example of that.
I've managed to miss out entirely on a long career. This is their fourteenth album and I'm interested in working backwards to see where their sound came from. It's death at its fastest and thrashiest, driven by strong rhythms and intricate guitars. The riffs are frantic and incessant, but they're built on melody without this ever turning into melodic death. The tone is a dirty and demonic one, which I really like, that being only one reason why I'm hearing a Possessed influence.
Where Sinister depart from that Possessed sound is in the vocal style of Aad Kloosterwaard, his deep growl a guttural demonic outburst. I really like how it contributes to the dark texture, but it's a style that doesn't allow him a lot of variety in delivery. It's a limiting factor even across this album, let alone over multiples. He's a founding member, the only one currently in the band, but he shifted over from drums to vocals after they briefly split up and reformed in 2005, making this their eighth album with his voice.
Fortunately, his roar isn't the only vocal sound here and the best songs are able to find variety. The monks who chant us into Oasis of Peace (Blood from the Chalice) show up buried in the mix on Apostles of the Weak and Unbounded Sacrilege. There are some backing vocals under Kloosterwaard's for emphasis, like on Unique Death Experience, but I'm surprised they don't show up as a counter more often, because that's an effective approach on Apostles of the Weak, surely the best song here. There's also what sounds like narration on a few tracks. Variety is the spice of death.
I enjoyed Kloosterwaard's demonic delivery, but I enjoyed the backing music a lot more. Even though the tempo is almost entirely fast, it still varies a great deal and I'm massively impressed by Toep Duin's drumming. There are a pair of guitars here and Michael Grall and Walter Tjwa are imaginative about how they can both combine and play off each other. I enjoyed their soloing a lot on this album too. That leaves Ghislain van der Stel on a reliable bass and praise for the brief instrumentals that play in symphonic territory and still fit on the album, like this is a demonic opera.
I liked this album, just as much on a third listen as a first, and I want to hear more from Sinister. I did a little reading up and see that their albums have had varied reception, a bunch of them being rated very highly, not only the early ones, but a bunch being rated a lot lower. I wonder how much this ties to the line up at the time, given that there's a lot of turnover in the band.
Of the five current members, only two played on the prior album, Syncretism in 2017, and it can't be promising when a band who have been around for over three decades are unable to boast more than two members who have lasted more than a decade. If I'm counting properly, at least thirty musicians have been part of Sinister. That seems like a lot, but I should emphasise the flipside that they can turn out an album this solid with mostly new members.