I remember checking out Norway’s Sarkom a few years back and, unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed. Not that any of their albums are bad, but they are about as typical Norwegian black metal as it gets. Aggravation of Mind and Bestial Supremacy (Precision in Pure Darkness) have all the necessary treble, tremolos, and aggressive black-metal vox, but nothing substantial. Then 2013 came along and Doomsday Elite proved the band’s desire to progress. In general, Doomsday has a lot of similarities to Watain and Satyricon, with added keys to the opener and orchestration to the closer. The biggest difference between 2013’s Doomsday Elite and their previous work is the amount of inspiration they brought into every track of Doomsday. They brought in The Kovenant‘s Psy Coma to handle the closing orchestral arrangements, Negator‘s Nachtgarm for vocal assistance, and the guitars of Keep of Kalessin‘s Vyl. And Anti-Cosmic Art is here to take it one step further. The band brings more guests, unleashes more riffs, more blastbeats, and a plethora of guitar solos. The result is Sarkom‘s best release to date.
Opener “Previous Associates, Now as Targets for the Gun” is a straightforward Norwegian black metal song akin to the pulverizing nature of Gorgoroth. And much of that crushing nature is due to the drums. Something Sarkom has not completely utilized in the past. Defest’s exploding blastbeats and marching raps charge through most of the song before introducing a black ‘n’ roll groove to close it out. Not exactly original, but this song is done with just the right amount of energy and precision. As with most Norwegian black metal releases, if it’s not balls-out black metal cannonades, then it’s hellish mid-paced numbers like “Seen Through the Eyes of a Paedophile Priest.” Taking unsettling qualities from the likes of 1349 and Thorns, this spoken-word nightmare acts as your acid-trip intermission. Unfortunately, its builds don’t do much building and its length gives it a repetitive quality.
While these two tracks have respectable staying power, “Mind-Abscess” and “Black Metal Necrophilia” do it better. The former is another mid-paced affair, but with crushing riffs and guitar solos. Not just guitar solos, but dueling ones. And damn good ones, at that. I’m not exactly sure who handles these particular solos but, between Thrawn and guest guitarists Ronni Le Tekrø (TNT) and Peter Huss (Shining), you know they won’t be shit. Like “Mind-Abscess,” “Black Metal Necrophilia” is a venomous number full of vicious riffage that closes Art with bloodthirsty vox and guitar/drum work that fucking slays.
The songs that make Art so special, though, have to be the rockin’-and-rollin’ “Ruiners of Our Family Tree” and the punky “Come, Dear Cancer.” “Ruiners” may be one of the most bizarre songs to exist on a by-the-numbers black metal record, but it has a serious groove and an old-school rock feel. The vocals may still be Unsgaard’s vicious spewings, but the song is far from vicious. The bass-led groove and solo work actually sound like a completely different band. But, it’s hella fun. “Come, Dear Cancer” sounds like a fitting title to a Nattefrost song and the music proves to be just as appropriate. It charges out of the gates like your typical Carpathian Forest piece before Pehr Skjoldhammer (Alfahanne) appears and gives the track an almost Darkthrone-like punkiness. It’s strange, but the mixing of genres works.
The track, however, that I can’t get enough of is the cover of Sodom‘s “Sodomy and Lust.” Acting as the album’s true closer behind “Black Metal Necrophilia,” Sarkom stomps the shit out you one last time before the disc goes quiet. The raw production and Unsgaard’s vox make this the truest Sodom cover I’ve ever heard. But, when that infamous mid-song breakdown arrives, Sarkom makes this song their own. The simple adjustments to the original riffs result in something even more neck-breaking than the original. I’m rarely a fan of covers, but this one rules and fits the album like a glove.
Without a doubt, Sarkom have outdone themselves with Anti-Cosmic Art. When compared to more progressive black-metal bands, this is pretty typical stuff. But, to a band that has been living in the ’90s since its conception in ’02, this is a big step forward. The spontaneity and the little details discovered with each listen makes this the quintessential record of their catalog. If the band continues to progress (as they have been doing for some fifteen years), I suspect their next release will be a stunner.