Sanguine Glacialis – Maladaptive Daydreaming Review

Over the past several years, I’ve learned that tags like “progressive metal” and “avant-garde” tend to spark intense debate, largely over what does and does not qualify for such attributions. The nerd in all of us either overtly or secretly desires a nice, clean categorization of everything we hear, but it’s not always so cut and dry, and not everyone is going to agree. In the case of Montreal symphonic extreme metal troupe Sanguine Glacialis, however, there’s no denying their singularly weird and wacky approach certainly qualifies as progressive, and at times even avant-garde. Third LP Maladaptive Daydreaming is further proof to that end.

Before picking this promo up, I had never heard of Sanguine Glacialis before, but I quickly fell head over heels for their wild extreme metal after checking out the kaleidoscopic blunderbuss that is Hadopelagic, their 2018 sophomore record. A bizarre and wickedly entertaining combination of Pensees Nocturne cabaret/jazz fusion, Seven Spires theatricality, Nightwish opulence, and Fleshgod Apocalypse extremity coalesced into an endlessly fun and surprising record filled with killer tunes. Five years later, Maladaptive Daydreaming takes that formula and refines, tightens, and coheres its constituent pieces, while also adding gothic touches reminiscent of Veile. While not as daring or esoteric as previous work—and therefore arguably less deserving of an “avant-garde” tag—Maladaptive Dreaming makes up for it with universally compelling hooks, cohesive writing, and charming personality.

The most remarkable aspect of Sanguine Glacialis’ latest work is how consistently good it is. Maladaptive Daydreaming is as rock-solid an album as they come, and opening duo “Welcome” (which, to my great joy, isn’t a fluffy intro) and “Immuration” makes short work of any doubts to the contrary. Vicious rasps and crystalline operatics (both handled admirably by lead vocalist and keyboardist Maude Théberge) mesh beautifully with Alexandre Lépine’s and Jonathan Fontaine’s headbanging riffs and icy tremolo leads, inexorably driven by Jérémy Racine’s pummeling drums and Marc Gervais’ burbling, albeit difficult to hear, bass. These initial tracks’ more straightforward, darker approach continues until “Ars Moriendi” and “Resilience.” Here, Sanguine Glacialis revive both the jazzy prog and the cabaret waltz hybridizations I enjoyed on previous albums, unfolding a new act that unveils more colorful layers of Maladaptive Daydreaming’s Lewis Carroll-inspired concept—not unlike the way the album’s cover art opens a portal from a dour, shadowed house into a vivid, isolation-fueled hallucination. A greater presence of expressive piano from that point onward ties the back half together, with late album highlights “Paracusia” and “Inadaptation” utilizing the instrument’s delicate voice to greatest effect, carrying the album’s momentum through the crushing death of closer “Resignation.”

A journey as immersive and adventurous as this should be a beautiful, arresting experience—and for the most part, it is. However, certain choices made in the production suite hamper the record’s impact significantly. Coming it at a dismal DR 4 (when you exclude the DR 9 instrumental interlude “Rêveries Obsessives”), Maladaptive Daydreaming, while mixed well, suffers greatly in terms of tones and textures thanks to unforgiving compression. Daydreaming about how much more impact the record’s more grandiose passages—like those in “Malevolent Creativity,” “Paracusia,” and “Burst in Flames”— would have if they were given the soundstage they deserve instead of this crowded, bricked box only drives the point home. Otherwise, there’s not much to complain about outside of a smidgeon of bloat in otherwise strong songs, “Cauchemort” and “Paracusia,” each about a minute overlong. Nothing more than a nitpick, these instances nonetheless introduce a slight loss of momentum just before and just after a brief intermission. Although said intermission is arguably the best time around which to bookend a slowdown and subsequent ramp-up, I still believe this album would flow even better with just a little extra trimming in those places.

Harsh mastering and a touch of bloat aside, it’s astounding how consistently high-quality Sanguine Glacialis’ output is only three albums in. Furthermore, Maladaptive Daydreaming boasts a significant improvement in album cohesion without sacrificing the band’s unique identity or confident presentation. With that in mind, I strongly encourage anyone with a penchant for dramatic, adventurous, and immersive extreme metal to enjoy of deep Maladaptive Daydreaming.

Rating: Very Good!
DR: 51 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Released
Websites: ||
Releases Worldwide: August 18th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. Just barely.
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