Sarcator – Alkahest Review

I was hoping that Sarcator would be short for something cool like “Sarcastic Alligator” or “Sarcophagus Emasculator.” Sadly, it’s just an unforgivable portmanteau of Sarcófago and Kreator. I trudged on undeterred, enticed by the description of Sarcator’s Alkahest. These Swedes bill themselves as blackened thrashers inspired by ’80s German thrash, a shortcut to my listening queue. And it’s exciting to review albums by teenagers; they may be hit-or-miss, but nothing warms my shriveled heart like hearing youngsters trying to drive metal onward. My last experience with Swedish thrash released on Black Lion was Defiatory, which blew me away. So Sarcator’s Alkahest had big, belligerent shoes to fill, but I held a vain hope that it’d have the feet to do so.

Alkahest scratches an itch, but it’s a different itch than I’d expected. As advertised, Alkahest is blackened but not pitch-black; Sarcator never ventures into raw frosty territory, but each song is dipped in black metal before serving. Alkahest alternates between lurching riffs and frenzied energy, with the latter showing hints of the blackened edges of thrash and death metal, like Immortal’s At the Heart of Winter and Necrophobic. The raspy growled vocals are similarly caught between worlds. But the element of surprise here is the prominent presence of old-school hard rock and heavy metal influences, which make Alkahest sound much different from blackened speed demons like Bütcher. While it may not be obvious on first listen, Sarcator is trying to blend a lot of styles on Alkahest, despite the simple advertising.

The blackened heavy metal elements of Sarcator’s sound work wonders. It took me a while to realize that the 1970s and ’80s influences run deep on Alkahest. Part of this is just a result of the unabashed fun that Sarcator has on this album, like their fantastic singalongable choruses. But beyond that, I catch whiffs of Wishbone Ash in the effect-laden guitar solos, Priest in the simple rocking riffs, and Dio-era Sabbath in the ballad-esque softer breaks, all percolated through a blackened filter. This description may sound haphazard, but Sarcator makes it work. Album highlight “Perdition’s Hand” does it best, with simple hard rock riffs giving way to an infectious chorus and a beautiful indulgent solo. Tracks like “Grave Maggot Future” and “Alkahest” excel at merging vintage influences with blackened overtones to craft melodies and choruses that sound both haunting and irresistible. This was not at all what I expected, but it won me over nonetheless.

Alkahest falters when it takes its foot off the gas. The slower riffs on the album often lose my interest, lacking either the creativity of the hard rock sections or the sheer power of the thrashier pieces (“Dreameater,” “Sorrow’s Verse”). Similarly, the soft acoustic breaks on Alkahest do very little to push the record forward (“The Long Lost,” “He Who Comes from the Dark”). Making matters worse, Sarcator hasn’t yet learned how to edit. After the first three explosive songs on Alkahest, every track lasts longer than it should, laying down tiresome riffs and repeating them ad nauseam. The result of these pacing issues is that I struggle to get through Alkahest’s hour-long runtime without losing focus, despite Sarcator’s unique songwriting talents.

Sarcator has a formula that works like a charm, but they often don’t stick to it. The parts of Alkahest that resemble a blackened Rainbow are unrelenting and gripping.1 If Alkahest were more concise and less front-loaded, its endearing infusion of black metal into olde heavy metal would’ve floored me. Still, while Alkahest may not live up to my expectations for Black Lion thrash, it’s a promising outing from kids with lofty ambitions and an ear for fun. If they’re able to crystallize these ambitions into a tighter album next time around, there’ll be no stopping Sarcator.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Black Lion Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Blackened Rainbow would’ve been a better band name anyway.
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