If you were to tell me that there's a band out there that melds Death […]
By Daniel Fox
October 23, 2015
Sadist - Hyaena album cover

If you were to tell me that there's a band out there that melds Death Metal with Jazz, I wouldn't be all too surprised, given how familiar we are with SHINING (note, the clean-cut lads from Norway that DON'T self-harm on stage). When it comes to eccentric Death Metal, Italy's brutal proggers SADIST are as imaginative as they come.

Not another upstart, the band go way back, formed in 1991, with one of the founding members still pounding it out to this day: keyboardist/guitarist Tommy Talamanca. 24 years later, proud of quite an illustrious career for a relatively unspoken band, having shared the stage many a time with the likes of giants SLAYER, SUFFOCATION and CARCASS, the band offer us a new studio album in "Hyaena".

Progressive Death Metal: put aside names like BEYOND CREATION and OPETH for a moment, and consider that there might just be stranger, more avant-garde, brutal music out there. "Hyaena" is a rather tribal offering, packed to the brim with organic drums, peculiar arrangements and hanging chord progressions. Opening piece, "The Lonely Mountain", endeavours to trip us up with an opium-fed series of riffs dancing around many time signatures and rhythmic motifs. From the onset, you may fixate on the drums. Whilst Alessio is a truly a master of his craft, the production is not something to pass over; while the tide of bands using drum triggers ("it's only on the kick, I swear!") is ever rising, this battery has to be the most organic I've heard in a long time. Full, wooden-sounding and unabusive of reverb, they dominate the soundscape, and do well to reinforce the tribal atmosphere going on, so much so that the guitars sometimes tend to get lost. Interestingly enough that the first track is one of the most avant-garde on offer, their efficacy for "jazz metal" becomes apparent towards the end, with a delicious and clean passage, totally devoid of "metal", the helm taken by a prominent fretless bass performance (I swear, it's still NOT BEYOND CREATION).

The track to follow, "Pachycrocuta", certainly leans towards the more melody-oriented Prog Metal some of us may be used to, a la a more extreme DREAM THEATER, punctuated by frantic and sudden smatterings of percussive heaviness and savage vocals. Halfway through the album, the music takes a break from Metal music entirely, with an elongated instrumental piece that I can only dub "heavy jazz". The track is dominated by wistful and airy acoustic guitars, punchy drums and more rich fretless that cuts effortless through the mix, lathered with ever-so-atmospheric synths; absolutely the most 'entrancing' track on an album that is the polar opposite of soothing. "Eternal Enemies" and "African Devourers" bring back the metal in terrifyingly full force, focussing on brutal riffs with unorthodox structures, the latter coming out with absolutely bizarre chord progressions.

This album, admittedly, is a difficult morsel to swallow. At times uninviting, and at others, captivating, with a mix that tip-toes between hollow and airy, and percussive to the point of drowning out the guitars almost completely. Forming an opinion on the album is therefore actually pretty difficult; fans of the band will love "Hyaena", of that I am sure. Fans of the more esoteric of Death Metal, may also find that it tickles their fancy. Other than that, however, I don't positively envisage this album edging out past a niche following, especially those compulsively focussing on a "perfect" guitar mix. But then, who wants to sell out for the sake of appeasing the masses?

If you like SADIST, or Progressive Extreme Metal in general, lap it up. If the heaviest band you listen to is SLAYER, it's most certainly not your cup of tea.

7 / 10


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"Hyaena" Track-listing:

1. The Lonely Mountain
2. Pachycrocuta
3. Bouki
4. The Devil Riding The Evil Steed
5. Scavenger and Thief
6. Gadawan Kura
7. Eternal Enemies
8. African Devourers
9. Scratching Rocks
10. Genital Mask

Sadist Lineup:

Trevor Sadist - Vocals
Tommy Talamanca - Keyboards, Guitars
Andy Marchini - Bass
Alessio Spallarossa - Drums

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