Tuesday 21 November 2023

Sadus - The Shadow Inside (2023)

Country: USA
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 17 Nov 2023
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Sadus have been around for a very long time, dating back to 1985, and they've never split up, even if their members have often had other priorities, shall we say. Some have left but nobody new has ever joined, meaning that the quartet who formed Sadus are now only a duo. Darren Travis is the most obvious, as vocalist and guitarist—he also contributes the bass here—with Jon Allen behind the drumkit. Second guitarist Rob Moore left back in 1994 and bassist Steve DiGiorgio ceased to be involved in 2015.

That probably explains why they put out new albums so rarely. Their first three came out together, in 1988, 1990 and 1992, but, as every thrasher knows, that reaches a point in time when the musical landscape really wasn't conducive to a fast and technical thrash band. I'm actually impressed that they put out a fourth in 1997, but their fifth didn't come till a decade later in 2006 and this is their sixth, seventeen full years on from that. It's far from awful but it really isn't the sort of album that has been seventeen years in the making.

I remember Sadus being a strong technical thrash band, even if none of their songs have got stuck in my brain since the eighties the way so many of those of their peers have, but this feels more run of the mill. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but thrash is one of my favourite genres, so I'm more forgiving of it than I am other genres. While the best of the best will connect with me like nothing else, I could listen to crappy thrash and still feel energized. This certainly isn't crappy but, even at its best, on tracks that blister like Ride the Knife, it's not what it could be.

It probably doesn't help that First Blood kicks off the album with an intro that's so reminiscent of Crimson Glory's Lost Reflection that I immediately found myself singing along with it. It develops into a decent thrash metal song, clearly American but not screaming of any particular band as an influence, even themselves. Sure, it's Bay Area rather than east coast but Sadus are from Antioch and that's in the San Francisco Bay Area, so that's hardly surprising.

Scorched and Burnt quickly leaps into Megadeth mode, with a pause in the instrumentation for a couple of snarling a capella lines in the Dave Mustaine style. There's clearly Megadeth in the rest of the song too, though the vocals shift away from him into a wide open screech that has to be the most and possibly only distinguishing mark on this album. It's Travis trying to do something more with his vocals whenever he isn't just operating in a routine thrash mode. The problem is that his approach doesn't extend to his instrumentation, which always feels like a backdrop.

The vocals really start to dominate in It's the Sickness. The riffs are reliable, the solos solid and the drumming furious, but they're all backdrops for the vocals to decorate. And, while the instruments play pure thrash, the vocals don't feel that constrained. They move across the genres, always with a thrash filter on them, but moving from traditional rough thrash vocals and Mustaine snarls to a set of hints at black shrieks and death growls, never quite reaching either but enjoying how close they get.

They're sometimes reminiscent of Martin Walkyier of Sabbat and Bobby the Blitz of Overkill, even Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth, but they're not quite so pristinely intonated as any of them. Instead of spitting out lyrics like machine gun bullets, which they do on the fastest material, they more often linger on sounds and then burst over slower songs and sections like fireworks. In verses, they're a lot more traditional, but, in the choruses, they become something more, elongating syllables and stretching sounds until they can't exist any more.

All the songs sound good but few register and which do tend to change on repeat listens. Ride the Knife is an unrelentless thrasher and it's easily my favourite song here. First Blood may follow it, a few blistering sections of Anarchy notwithstanding, but those are the only real commonalities. On one listen through, it might be The Shadow Inside, closing out the album, that reminds me that it has a simple but highly effective riff and some good solos. The next, my brain might skip that but tell me how much Overkill there is in The Devil in Me. None of these songs truly stick and few have much of a chance. It's just good background music for me.

And so this is only a 6/10 from me, as the target audience. If thrash isn't your thing, then you may be able to safely drop a point off that. And that's not good for a first album in seventeen years.

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