Title: Plague Hymns
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Release Date: 2 October 2020
Format Reviewed: High-quality Digital Recording
Some time ago I pondered in another review that maybe in 2020 new Thrash Metal no longer really has the power to really blow me away with the raw intensity of old when there have been so many branches of Extreme Metal pushing boundaries in the past decades. Well, whether that really be so or not Sacramento California’s SARCOPTES have made something very clear with their latest 18 minute, 2 track EP “Plague Hymns” (the followup to their 2016 full-length debut “Songs and Dances of Death”): if you take just the right amount of Thrash Metal and mix it with a healthy dose of Black Metal you will get a combustible Extreme Metal concoction that could rip the skin off your face at 20 paces.
With Sean Zimmerman handling bass, guitars and keyboards and Garrett Garvey drums and vocals, this duo have put together a release that makes great use of all instrumentation from the word go, with great powerful, pulverising drumming, remorseless, flesh-ripping guitar riffs, satisfyingly sinister keyboards and vocals in a Black Metal style that’s both furious sounding and you can actually hear what’s being sung.
Opening track “The Vertigo Soul” is a monster track with great chunky riffing that in some moments has a feel of classic SLAYER with a blackened edge and great technicality that doesn’t take away from the rough and raw feel. While there’s definitely been many years passed on the road of extreme music, the spirit of pioneering extreme bands like CELTIC FROST, VENOM and MOTORHEAD is clearly running through this band. The guttural screams that launch the track into overdrive and the ominous synths help to really cement the dark atmosphere. The drumming is relentless and in the final minute in particular the drums and guitars lock together in a death spiral that seems bound to bring the music and the listener to a sudden, catastrophic, head first collision with hard concrete.
The 10 minute companion track “La Moria Grandissima” starts out with the same max intensity as the hammering drums and quick fire, slicing blackened guitar thunder along. Once again the use of keys adds an extra layer of atmosphere, never right at the front, but building the sense of foreboding darkness. While for the first half there doesn’t seem to be quite as much to hold the interest as in the opening track, all of a sudden half way through the music pulls in another direction, like a skeletal death horse galloping through the night that slows to a canter and we’re treated to a great, soaring piece of lead guitar work, before ooft we’re off and running again.
And then boom it’s over. 2 tracks, 18 minutes, a thundering EP of Black/Thrash Metal. This is Extreme Metal as I want to hear it in 2020: full of raw energy, great playing, an ear for melody and nasty and vicious as you could want. Another great release from Transcending Obscurity Records. Well worth your time. 8.5/10 Tom Boatman
8.5/10 To Greatness and Glory!
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