Sadist – Firescorched [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

Nearly 30 years into their career, Sadist still manages to fly under the radar. For the olde and young who dig through the single-word glossary of 90s tech/prog/weirdo death metal, Sadist falls curiously along the progressive spectrum. True to the Italian horror spirit that Sadist embodies, their work tiptoes the line between abstract and abrasive to unsettling effect, and just plain meandering and ineffective. While they’ve taken cues from classics like Goblin throughout their career, Sadist has had a troubled catalog, particularly in the last decade. On their 2015 effort Hyaena Kronos noted that a cheap sound hurt the record’s potential for impact, and with 2018’s Spellbound, Ferrous Beuller sighed at Sadistߵs ever-growing presence of dated, and meandering synth sections. Firescorched, however, in full glory of its name, burns with fresh fury.

What changed? Rather than being silly Italian film score metal, Sadist chose to hold the axe and swing it. The overall production feels a touch more organic too, even though mastermind Tommy Talamanca continues to helm the mix and master. But Firescorched presented a unique task for Talamanca, as Sadist entered the studio with a new rhythm section, remotely recruiting the fabled Jeroen Paul Thesseling (Obscura, ex-Pestilence) on fretless bass duties, his flatulence bubbling and squeaking through minutia of sonic cracks on tracks like the progged-out “Finger Food” and the chunky groove-fest “Aggression Regression.” While long-time bassist and still friend of the band Andy Marchini was no slouch, Thesseling imbues percussive magic to each moment alongside the other new member Romain Goulon, a workhorse drummer featured in countless bands of the techy and progressive variety, a natural partner to Thesseling restless rumbles.

For a band that has always played progressive death metal, this Sadist iteration has landed emboldened in the death element of their sound. Even Trevor Nadir, who has boasted higher-end screeches and howls on past works, digs deeper to present a primarily primal bark that matches the deep groove that pulses through Firescorched (“Accabadora,” “Trauma,” “Firescorched”). Shades of jazz fusion don’t escape this record, but on this decidedly more ugly path, these genre fluid tracks (“Fleshbound,” “Aggression Regression”) land closer to hellish jazz abandon than enlightened fusion flights, scratching the deeply technical itch I feel for a largely unscratched act like Spiral Architect. Sure, Talamanca can’t help but toss a few of his alien solos into the foray (“Finger Food,” “Trauma”), but with no songs crossing even the five-minute mark, there’s not a bit of fat to burn.

Of course, Sadist cannot escape being Sadist—the bright and horrifying synth inclusions that you would expect in their music still pop about (“Burial of a Clown,” “Loa”). Like on their most successful works, Sadist manages to constantly move forward through their intentionally jarring and unsettling orchestrated departures, with “Three Mothers and the Old Devil Father” coming together as the crescendo of their eerie, whimsical, yet shredding sound. Truthfully, Sadist hasn’t sounded so vital since their debut nor as ripping since Sadist. While their aged peers remain fruitless in the threat to release new material (Atheist) or simply have transcended the realms of heaviness (Cynic), Sadist remains two feet, knee deep in a blazing haunted house ready to fight for a place in the minds of modern, progressive death metal fans everywhere.

Tracks to Check Out: “Fleshbound,” “Finger Food,” “Aggression Regression, “Three Mothers and the Old Devil Father,” “Firescorched”

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