Two years ago, both Grymm and myself were fairly impressed by Portuguese doom outfit Sinistro’s sophomore album, Semente. The band laid down an ambient, unobtrusive foundation for Patricia Andrade’s haunting vocals, creating a mesmerizing, promising soundscape. Now here we are in 2018 and the band has taken a monumental step forward: all the band members now have full names (perhaps because guitarist Y has been replaced by another R, which would cause confusion). Had Grymm known this beforehand, he might not have been so cavalier during negotiations for review rights, but it remains to be seen whether I am the beneficiary of our resident DoomCat’s generosity, or if I will be cursed as I dive into the atmospheric doom that is Sangue Cássia.
Before we begin, a plea to our readers: I know at least one of you speaks Portuguese, and I implore you for assistance. Message me if you can, so I can share the Portuguese lyric sheet with you – I’d love to have a translation. As to the album title, I believe Sangue Cássia translates to blood cassia, where cassia is a cinnamon-like tree. But I could be completely wrong. Nevertheless, Sinistro aim to continue their semi-erotic version of doom here. As Grymm noted in 2016, Sinistro think of themselves as ambient doom rock. I would remove the word “rock” and replace the word “ambient” with “cinematic.” Listening to Sangue Cássia (and watching any of the three videos that have been released) is akin to a disturbing, carnal black and white arthouse movie, alluring yet sinister at the same time.
The epic-length opener “Cosmos Controle” kicks off in foreboding doom fashion, juxtaposed1 by disorienting waves of synth and Andrade’s succubus vocals. Eleven minutes is long for any track, and this song is no exception. It ebbs and flows, at times sloth-like, at others pensive and sinister, but its length is certainly noticed. The deliberately-paced songwriting, a doom staple, carries on in “Lotus,” a beautiful soundscape that kicks into heavy gear almost two minutes in and follows the same, albeit shorter, template as “Cosmos Controle.” The shortest song, “Petalas,” veers far out of doom and into the realm of alt-rock, leaving us with one of the more effective numbers. “Abismo” is perhaps the heaviest song on the album, with subterranean bass rumbling beneath a lumbering riff, again thrown off-kilter by Andrade’s silky voice and melancholic bridge, all of which is fantastically arranged.
Much like Semente, the songs on Sangue Cássia serve as backdrops to Andrade’s voice, but the structure of these dirges are more refined now, the moods more expertly conveyed. On Semente I felt the band were a bit unsure of themselves, having trouble straddling the line between doom and eroticism. That isn’t the case here. Throughout the album hints of Fado, essentially Portugal’s national chant, are prevalent, with Andrade’s voice constantly conveying a sadness and longing. Andrade succeeds in conjuring emotions from lust to anger in her work. We may want to make comparisons to other doom chanteuses such as Chelsea Wolfe and Darkher, and although their music is very different from Sinistro, Andrade can more than hold her own with these singers.
Production has also taken a small step forward, in both dynamic range and overall quality. The snare drum snaps like an elastic band on the wrist. Quiet moments truly are quiet, and the crescendo of down-tuned riffs and washes of keyboards are quite effective. Fernando Matias (bass guitar, keys, formerly known only as F) must be commended for his mix and master.
Are all the plusses enough to bump Sangue Cássia up into the coveted 3.5 range? Yes. This is a band that could easily provide scores and songs for film. Sinistro are a band that seems to convey a story with each song, thus the highly effective videos. They bring an element of elegance to a genre that can be as brutal and harrowing as any subset of metal. A sense of sameness can easily find its way into a doom record, but Sangue Cássia manages to avoid this pitfall, with variety in song arrangements keeping us engaged. Sangue Cássia is definitely a step forward for the band.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: projectosinistro.bandcamp.com | sinistroband.com | facebook.com/sinistroband
Releases Worldwide: January 5th, 2018