Monday, March 31, 2014

Sarcomancy - DEMO (2010)

Sarcomancy is a name unknown to many who don't play black in Magic: The Gathering, but also a fairy obscure black metal band out of Massachusetts who I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot more of in the future. This 2010 demo is only a three-tracker, traded directly from the band on a blank cassette (I even cheated and turned the logo into a faux cover), upon which they wasted no space, adding a mix of hard rock and metal tunes to fill out the tape! It's been a long time since anything like that has crossed my doorway. But all that is beside the point, because the original material here is strong enough to be counted among the gradually burgeoning New England black metal scene alongside groups like Infera Bruo and Autolatry; with a few aesthetic distinctions that hint at a greater ambition than merely cutting and pasting from the Scandinavian standards.

This is relatively dextrous black metal with a more prominent bass presence than the norm, courtesy of Josh Staples, who I'm sure I've likened to the 'Alex Webster' of Massachusetts, but if I haven't: well, consider it done. The guy has a strong death metal background, having played with a number of locals (currently Abnormality who kick all manner of ass). His lines here are fast, fluid and slightly higher in pitch than what you might expect from a lot of bottom feeders, but it adds a nice, almost classic heavy metal (Steve Harris-on-amphetamines) texture which lends some vibrancy and pulse to the streaming chords. The blasting feels a little thin and/or tinny, but it might have just been the old hunk of junk deck I was experiencing the tape on, and it's certainly adequate enough to drive the riffing selection and seat the filthy rasping vitriol being spit over the proceedings. As for riffs, they're generally pretty melodic in structure, giving it a very mid-90s appeal in how they contrast against the vocals, but I'd also point out that the leads and bridge elements here possess a semi-speed/heavy metal charisma to them which works rather successfully; in fact it was this and the bass that made me wish there were a lot more material to listen through.

In terms of overall aesthetics, I feel like the fell Romanticism inherent to Quebecois black metal is infused with a more savage Norse or Swedish convention; glorious but tainted. If you could imagine a hybrid of Bathory or Marduk with old Deathspell Omega and Forteresse, this might fall somewhere along that axis. Atmospheric, but largely just through the core riffing elements rather than any of the additional layers. The production is a bit disparate across the three tunes, but just because they're essentially basement recordings that were either recorded or mixed at different times, and this is all clearly outlined on the notes I was given (along with some amusing historical notes). The sound levels could be better, and obviously the packaging, but it's not as if this was presented as something it wasn't, and if you're unable to pick this up through a trade, there should hopefully be some manner of reissue in the feature (there are a few live YouTube videos available). As of this moment, these guys are actually bigger than the britches of this recording would have you believe, having performed up North at some fests with some overseas talent, and there is ample evidence of the conviction and darkness to go much further.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

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