Plague Hymns

Anmeldt av Eddie Rattlehead
(Transcending Obscurity Records, 2020)

Karakter: 5.5/6

Sarcoptes_PlagueHymns.jpgSarcoptes, named after a genus of mites, is a black/death metal duo of Sean Zimmerman (bass, guitars, keyboards) and Garrett Garvey (drums, vocals) from Sacramento, California, a consistent lineup since its inception in 2008 through "Thanatos" EP (2013) and the debut full length, "Songs And Dances Of Death" (2016), the former released independently and the latter on Cimmerian Shade Recordings. The debut album was more of a black/thrash affair which, although it contained a few good ideas, riffs and melodies, was marred by a substandard production and, overall, did not impress me much. I'm happy to report, then, that both the change of label (to one of the best and the most consistently abundant with excellent material on the market) and change of producer to Zack Ohren (Machine Head, All Shall Perish, Fallujah) were excellent decisions. "Plague Hymns" sounds powerful yet catchy and engaging with near perfect songwriting, songs packed to the brim with melodies, riffs, mood and pace changes galore.

Although there are just 2 long tracks on this EP neither overstays its welcome, but, on the contrary, both lend themselves to repeated exposure. To put it bluntly, this is the kind of material which separates metal afficionados from metal tourists. The opener, "The Vertigo Soul" is shorter, 6 minutes and some change, but it's more concise and less compacted, although it is excellent in the way the leading Mercyful Fate or old Kreator or Slayer riff slithers around peak-a-booing its head here and there, surrounded by guitar melodies a'la Emperor's "IX Equilibrium" or Cradle Of Filth or Dimmu Borgir to the background of Fear Factorish keyboards and synths. Delicious? Sure, but you will hear greater things than these!

Enter, seriously, one of the best black metal tracks in all of heavy metal history. Although it could easily fit on Emperor's "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk" or Cradle Of Filth's "Cruelty And The Beast", if anyone asked me "what is black metal?" I'd answer: "La Moria Grandissima"! Lyrically based on the Roman Catholic Church's self-mortification rites to appease their god in the same way the pagans they conquered did, by fire and making scapegoats of sometimes willing victims their sacrifice seen as a privilege likened to sharing in the sufferings of Christ himself, if words such as "prayers to a capricious god to stave off Bubonic death" and "processions of dread share the passion of Christ" are any indication, the track is over 12 minutes, yes, but every second is filled to the brim with memorable riffs, melodies, tempo and mood changes, a kind of "The Vertigo Soul" taken into the 22nd Century. I mean, the ideas from the predecessor are expanded and solidified but also new elements, such as even more melodic tapestry a'la Dissection is utilized as well as more dramatic tempo changes, such as the slow down to almost doom/death a'la While Heaven Wept "Vast Oceans Lachrymose" in the middle, and the unforgettable conclusion with bells and sounds of people being burnt alive en masse as if in a sacrifice to Moloch, which, as we look back at the Spanish Inquisition, we may rightly ask: in what way was that any different and what either sacrifice had to do with Christ, anyway, or could it be both acts were really to the same god?

In my view, Sarcoptes sets a new standard for (deathened and thrashened) black metal with "Plague Hymns": inventive, creative, volatile and varied, powerful but, most of all, consistently fun to listen to. And the best thing is they are recording a new full length as we speak!


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