Sacrocurse’s 2014 debut Unholier Master holds a special place in my heart, but not for obvious reasons. If you’ll allow me to indulge in some selfish personal reflection. Unholier Master represented my first published piece here at Angry Metal Guy, so naturally, it has conjured up pleasant feelings of nostalgia as I prepare to sink my teeth into the band’s sophomore LP, Gnostic Holocaust. Unfortunately, Unholier Master failed to raise my excitement all that much, with the destructive duo playing a crude style of old school blackened death, cut from a particularly raggedy cloth. Despite an admirably feral delivery and primal display of unfiltered aggression, the songwriting didn’t really offer anything particularly compelling. Beyond the capable performances and fierce delivery, it proved a rather unremarkable and forgettable release. Now fittingly switching back to the unvarnished depths of the Iron Bonehead roster, can Sacrocurse rectify their deficiencies and release an album able to stand up amidst the high-quality metal releases bestowed upon us over the past few months?
“Just Fucking Die” is a great opening song title for the hellish ride Sacrocurse embark on over ten crazed tracks of raw, old-school brutality. Hammering blasts, distant buzzing guitars, and raw-throated growls collide, as speedy refrains are tempered by mid-paced sections and noisy solos. The sheer ugliness and ferocity of the song are impressive, even it fails to deliver anything particularly memorable. This is an ongoing issue that plagues the album, with truly memorable moments or standout passages few and far between. Contrasting against the worrying lack of depth and memorability in the song-writing is the undeniable charm of Sacrocurse’s uncompromising execution. From the no-holds-barred drum battery, ragged basement hum of the guitars, and thick, crusty vocals, Sacrocurse sound like they may very well be deranged and primitive servants of Satan. And while the music isn’t especially original or engaging beyond fleeting moments of head-banging satisfaction, the near constant waves of blasting fury and jacked-up energy has a certain exhilarating charm. Sadly, it isn’t enough to elevate the album or compensate for the one-dimensional aspects and lack of penetrating hooks.
Songs like the noisy and relentless depravity of “Endless Khaoz” and lo-fi screech and pummel of “Vengeance Consumed” are indicative of the album’s flaws, missing distinctive elements or anything to really grip the listener and sustain long-term interest. It’s not all grim though, as occasionally Sacrocurse gain greater traction, but the payoffs aren’t substantial enough to override the album’s weak points. “Maze of Serpents” mixes up the dynamics successfully around its halfway point, as inspired vocals and filthy grooves fight off the monotony and some decent riffs grab your attention. The title track is another solid song, largely benefiting from its off-the-chain intensity, greater variation in drum patterns, and thrashy bent, featuring whiffs of Possessed and early Slayer, but in a more evil and extreme form. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough strength in the material from front to back to reach the reasonable heights of Sacrocurse’s better songs.
Aside from the lackluster song-writing holding the album back, Gnostic Holocaust’s baffling production job does the album no favors whatsoever. The mix is all drums and vocals, with the guitars often pushed into the background, almost sounding like they were playing in a room down the hall from where the rest of the album was recorded, greatly stifling their impact. Meanwhile, the relentless, though slightly one-dimensional drumming, dominates everything at the obnoxious forefront of the mix, the in-your-face snare tone, and heavy blasting becoming a distracting drawback over the course of the album.
On the surface, there’s nothing all that wrong with Sacrocurse, and I can imagine less discerning metalheads getting a kick out of the band’s unapologetically primitive and relentless slaughter. Certainly, Sacrocurse perform passionately and nail their grimy underground, old-school aesthetic with aplomb. Occasionally a noteworthy riff or passage will crop-up which is enjoyable enough short term, but Gnostic Holocaust’s deficiencies in the song-writing and production departments are too glaring to enthusiastically recommend the album, nor is there anything enticing me to return.