Sinister - SyncretismI’ve noticed something weird about me and death metal over the years. No matter how much of it I listen to, it seems like there’s always at least one more big-name underground band that I’ve somehow never come across. Recently, that band came in the form of Dutch quintet Sinister. Formed in 1988, the group released acclaimed debut Cross the Styx in 1992, along with a slew of other albums throughout the 90s and early 2000s. After briefly breaking up in the mid-2000s and undergoing a few lineup shifts, vocalist Aad Kloosterwaard remains the sole founding member for thirteenth full-length Syncretism. Going in with zero expectations other than some online hoopla I’d seen about Sinister on metal forums, is Syncretism good enough to win over an ignorant listener like myself?

Yes and then some. For someone who worshiped at the altar of Morbid Angel and mid-period Behemoth when first getting into death metal a decade ago, Syncretism scratches an itch I didn’t even realize I still had. Imagine if Behemoth’s Demigod was performed by Malevolent Creation, with a bit of vocal influence from Aborted’s Sven de Caluwé. In one word, this album is monstrous.

Where to start? Kloosterwaard bellows with a demented, barely-decipherable roar that recalls both aforementioned de Caluwé and even Lord Worm’s legendary performance with early Cryptopsy. The guitars are beefier than Hulk Hogan eating a fistful of Big Macs, plowing through the mix with a hefty and violent buzz that serves as the perfect vehicle for the firestorm riffing. Toep Duin’s drumming, while slightly more subdued in the mix, blasts, and batters with a snappy, rattling snare and an explosive sense of force that will leave your eyes jiggling loose from their sockets. On Syncretism, Sinister’s primary intent seems to be conveying pure dominance in musical form: they play like they know exactly how powerful they sound and have nothing to prove to anyone.

The standout performance, however, goes to the guitars of Dennis Hartog and Bastiaan Brussaard. After its classical music intro, opener “Neurophobic” kicks in with the meanest death metal riff you’ve heard in months, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Follow-up “Convulsion of Christ” rides on long, sweaty tremolos that sound like Morbid Angel in their prime, while “Blood Soaked Domain” strikes with a thrashy main riff whose urgent potency possesses the same crushing force as aforementioned Demigod. Likewise, “Black Slithering Mass” lives up to its name with its sickly serpentine tremolos, the title track strikes some demented notes that invoke classic Cryptopsy, and closer “Confession Before Slaughter” even squeezes in some Dismember-style melodies before its ambient finish. Some of my favorite moments, however, lie in “Rite of the Blood Eagle,” which incorporates some of that inherently blasphemous riffing Vital Remains once specialized in, before moving into a section of haunting spoken word and devilish clean picking.

Sinister 2017

Throughout the record, Brussaard and Hartog never rely on “nothing” riffs or blasé chord progressions — nearly every moment of the album’s 48 minutes is packed with meaty guitars that exude a burning, hungry aggression. This vitriol is further conveyed in bouts of Deicide-esque double tracked vocals and prominent utterances of the song title in tracks like “Dominance by Acquisition,” which become perversely catchy with repeat listens. The production suits the music’s fiery energy well, though Syncretism can be a tad fatiguing at times even with its not-too-low DR 6. Furthering comparisons to mid-2000s Behemoth, there are also smatterings of horns and strings throughout the record, which often work but occasionally feel superfluous given how strong the base material is on its own.

But in terms of other complaints, I’m drawing a blank. For a guy who’s never heard of Sinister, I’m not just impressed, I’m getting ready to tear through their entire back catalog. It’s amazing that a band formed in 1988 — albeit with only one original member left — still possesses such raging energy and unabated aggression. This isn’t the sound of a veteran band still doing well despite their age, this is the sound of a veteran band entering the studio and firing on all cylinders, standing not just toe-to-toe with, but head and shoulders above the vast majority of death metal out there these days. The result is one of 2017’s first truly impressive albums and one I can’t recommend enough to any fan of the style.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: facebook.com/sinisterofficial
Releases Worldwide: February 24th, 2017

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    The band’s first three Sinister albums are phenomenal. Happy hunting, Mr Z.

  • Alex Calcan

    I have been waiting forever for a Sinister review here on AMG.

  • cool to read that there is a new Sinister album. I got into them with Hate and then the Bastard Saints EP, lost track of them, then got back into them with Afterburner. Quality death metal all the way with this band/brand.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    This is damn good stuff.

    • This is for sure the best death metal record of the year, I’m totally satisfied.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        So far, so good.

  • antitayyip

    what now?

  • Reese Burns

    Never heard of these guys either, but wow, my socks are knocked off!

    • sir_c

      enjoy!

  • These cats have aged even better than me!

    • herrschobel

      it´s just the light.

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    I’ve never been a huge Sinister fan but they have a place in my heart for the all-time ESL classic “Bleeding Towards the Wendigo”.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Haven’t kept up with Sinister after their first 3, but BY JINGO that’s about to change!

  • EnslavedEld73

    Seen them in the early 90’s and they were unbelievably tight. Diabolical Summoning will always be my favorite record by them. Glad to see they are still carrying the flame for underground brutality.

    • Diabolical Summoning is fanfuckingtastic.

  • Malcolm in the Middle X

    Hate is still one of my favorite death metal albums (along with the Bastard Saints EP). Sinister went through some weird phases. The period with the female vocalist was the least inspired. Their recent output sounded boring, but it seems as though they’ve found the magic formula.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    Count me in, the sample track is tasty.

  • Jrod1983

    Heck yes! After all the post-blackgaze-prog-atmospheric bs I’ve been listening to lately, this was just the kick in the dickhole I needed.
    That video was f’n rad too.

    • DrewMusic

      Come back! Departe and Hope Drone need you! I feel you though, I live under several feet of snow presently, it’s pretty much atmospheric post-black everything all day erryday, until my hatred thaws this place out or like May.

  • Thatguy

    Not nice at all. I love it.

  • Everything is nice, but the vocal…

  • contenderizer

    Cool track, but I’m worried about the blonde lady.

  • sir_c

    Surprised to hear you never heard them before. Like Asphyx they have been around for donkeys years. Anyways, good luck with chewing through their back catalog, it’s intense stuff :-)

  • Dead1

    I was surprised to see Aad listed as vocalist here. He was the drummer up to 2003 when the band broke up (and about the last time I heard any Sinister).

    They are one of the most unstable bands around. Indeed a quick look at Metal Archives reveal 2 new member joined in 2016 and rest gave only been in the band since 2011!

    Still great they have managed to write some decent stuff.

    • Dead1

      edit: forgot to mention according to MA Aad has been vocalist in new version of the band.

  • Westpaceagle

    I have been looking forward to this! Can’t wait to hear it!

  • SegaGenitals

    Sounds tasty. Looking forward to this one.

  • Jacq

    Nice review although everything about the sample track just sounds mega formulaic to my ears. The 90s wants its riffs/visuals back.

  • AngryMetalBird

    great review! and I was more than happy to find out that it’s already out on 7digital

  • Tyr

    Might check this out. Haven’t been a fan since Hate. Bart and Mike formed a group called Neocaesar if anyone misses the Hate days.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Leading contender for band photo of the year!

  • herrschobel

    oh boy that drop in the Beginning…maaaaaaaassive Banger

  • Martin Knap

    one word: sick