Following a stint on highly respected underground metal label Iron Bonehead productions for the release of their Sulphur Blessing demo, Mexican/Turkish duo Sacrocurse have fittingly landed on the Hells Headbangers roster for their debut full length, entitled Unholier Master. Band members LZ (drums) and Zolrak Montes (guitars, vocals), the latter a member of long running Texan act Nodens, craft a suitably primal slab of bestial blackened death, wielding their respective instruments like crude and primitive weapons of war as they hack and hammer through ten violent cuts in an appropriately concise 32-minute running time. It’s pretty unsophisticated stuff, yet the feverish energy the duo apply to their lively performances, coupled with a gritty delivery, makes for an unrelenting hellride that offers an intensely visceral, if somewhat one-dimensional listening experience.
Unfortunately, boundless enthusiasm and undeniable passion for their craft doesn’t necessarily transform into interesting songwriting; a reoccurring problem throughout Unholier Master. The record rages with the dry and abrasive speed-laced brutality typical of the South American metal scene, yet offers little in the way of musical variety and dynamics. Once the template has been established Sacrocurse stick to their primitive old school formula of blast beat driven fury, executing violent bursts of blunt force trauma interspersed with robust chugging grooves that punctuate the record and go some way towards nullifying the nagging monotony that creeps in all too frequently.
Ripping out of the gate with the hellish fury of “Sepulchral Desolation,” Sacrocurse show their hand from the outset through a relentless barrage of blast beats, fast, barely decipherable riffs, and dry cavernous growls. Wild unchained solos emerge through the murk, while the duo wisely deploy a meaty mid-tempo groove at the 3:32 minute mark that climaxes the song in a satisfying manner. Drummer LZ is clearly from the Marduk school of blast beat overkill, putting in a reasonably tight but monotonous performance. However, his lack of rhythmic flexibility proves detrimental across the record’s duration. Meanwhile the riffs blur the lines between black and death metal, whirring by like mini tornadoes; destructive and disorienting. Occasional distinctive exceptions, such as the reoccurring crunchy riff on ‘C.O.N.V.U.L.V.S.E.,” wedged between calculated bursts of trademark extremity, provides one of Unholier Master’s most memorable moments on a record more intent to bludgeon than leave anything but scant deposits in the memory bank.
Despite a lack of musical depth there’s certainly a charm in Sacrocurse’s brand of trend killing old school death metal, with the pace and ferocity cranked to the max from start to finish. And the frenzied attack and killer opening riff on “Ripping Death Solution” is a prime illustration of how effective Sacrocurse can be when injecting some catchy elements and minor structural variations into their formulaic norm, nailing the balance between dense blasting and gnarled groove. Unfortunately moments like these are few and far between.
Sonically, Sacrocurse opt for a production job that stays in tune with their raw aesthetics. The end result is punchier than expected with a raw and dirty guitar tone befitting the grimy vibes emanating from the record’s rotten core. The guitars could certainly benefit from a touch more definition and bite, while the drums are mixed a tad too loud, emphasizing an energetic but bland drumming performance. Otherwise Unholier Master is enamoured with the kind of rough no-frills production job that this material calls for.
Unholier Master is by no means a bad record. It’s a competently played and seething slab of caveman blackened death which I can imagine diehard fans of the style lapping up. However, for all their good intentions the band’s lack of songwritng dynamics and distinctive riffs overrides the redeeming qualities on offer.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps MP3
Label: Hells Headbangers
Websites: hellsheadbangers.bandcamp.com/album/unholier-master | facebook.com/Sacrocurse
Release Dates: Out Worldwide 08.19.2014