Whenever I spot “Finland” lurking at the end of a promo label, I can always rest assured that a brawl is surely brewing, and Sadistik Forest are certainly pugilists to the core, skinning knuckles with their riff-centric death metal, despite their name sounding like every black metal band ever. Three albums in and the Finns’ combination of thrashing rhythms and deathly destruction continues to transcend their obvious OSDM tag, delivering a deceptively genre-fluid assault. Morbid Majesties, in a flagrant bid to have me type “riff” more than even remotely necessary, has decked each brutal bough with an oaken proclivity to assault the ears, but after replay upon replay, does the wicked wood remain, or has the rot set in? Prepare for a plantation of puns.
I’ve said it time and time again, I am enraptured with the almighty riff, and Sadistik Forest have knowingly whittled it into their music’s very being. As such, Morbid Majesties wastes little time in revving up an introductory thrash riff, grinding the album and opener, “Morbidly Majestic,” into life. Propulsive rhythms carve an immediate clearing with a fucking immense guitar tone drier than bark, one that only serves to complement vocalist and bassist, Markus Makkonen, whose deep, gurgling growl and cruel higher register – not dissimilar to the work of Tom Angelripper – effects every corner of the album; his bass work insistently rustling between guitarists, Antti Heikkinen and Matti Salo’s, low-slung chugging.
Much of the record’s first half exhibits a veritable crop of verdant violence, often balancing a propensity for the Germanic thrash of Sodom with an incessant urge for a malevolent mid-pace. “Decades of Torment Then Death” creaks with a filthy groove, whereas “Destructive Art” branches out into certain black metal criteria, with fluid chord progressions in the verses amidst Vesa Mutka’s sporadic blasting. Where Sadistik Forest truly excel, however, is in their predilection to root each song with an enormous old-school breakdown. Album highlight, “The Hour of Dread,” is rampant with massive palm-muted riffs, further unfurling come the halfway point with a primitive yet undeniable flourish. While immediately satisfying, this approach doesn’t always stand up in the face of the ever unyielding arbiter that is repetition. Morbid Majesties‘ second half follows a very strict suit, and although “Zero Progress” is certainly fun, in all of its early Death worship, the novelty of insistently familiar structures begins to fade, and the once gestalt greenwood becomes increasingly brittle.
Aside from an isolated riff here and there, the record’s latter is sadly indistinct – a blight not the least bit alleviated by album closer, “Bones of a Giant.” At nearly ten minutes, the band attempts to exit the virulent valley with a composition of doom-infused lumbering, but it does little to rescue the record’s waning content. While the song isn’t particularly bad, it is far too long and would have been better utilized at half the length and placed somewhere in the album’s middle to help further define the blurring material, and distinguish the blunt beatings from the more savagely serrated barbs.
Sadistik Forest are absolutely capable of quaking the canopies with their unquenchable thirst for abundant riffery, but somewhere in that gruesome glen, the trail of breadcrumbs became unfortunately stale. Some of the cuttings here absolutely warrant inclusion on any classic death metal fan’s latest playlist, where the songs can ably thrive once pruned from the chaff. As it is, Morbid Majesties tangles with an overgrowth problem, but remains a respectable entry into the band’s thornography, and at the very least teases a glimpse at new growth potentially rife with bloom if tended to by the appropriately green fingered.