Sijjeel – Salvation Within Insanity Review

Full disclosure: I’m not a huge death metal connoisseur but I did grow up during the golden era of bands like Obituary, Morbid Angel, and Entombed. Occasionally, I like to see what’s new in the genre, but few things ever stick. While looking for something interesting to cut my teeth on for my first official AMG review, I came across Sijjeel and was intrigued by their Saudi Arabian origins. After listening to the opening seconds of Salvation Within Insanity, I was hooked. This was heavy – like suffocating under the crushing weight of 100 sweaty sumo wrestler corpses heavy – but there was something more than morbid heaviness here. What was it about Sijjeel that got this old curmudgeon interested in death metal again? Equal doses of salvation and insanity.

Salvation Within Insanity features some of the best death metal production I’ve ever heard. The album is the band’s first full-length after releasing the EP Cyclopean Megaliths in 2020. The EP is solid but doesn’t prepare you for the skull-crushing mayhem and chunky production that would follow. Sijjeel was started by guitarist Hussain Akbar who relocated from the Middle East to Europe to join forces with bassist Floor Van Kuijk (Carnifloor) and vocalist Lukas Kaminski (Stillbirth). Kuijk also mixed and mastered the album. Clearly, this Dutchman knows how to make a record sound great. The guitars are massive, the bass is funky by all definitions of the word, and the vocals ooze like a punctured gut full of rancid tripe. While the drums were programmed by Akbar, they flow naturally in the production, and you might never have guessed they were sampled if I hadn’t spilled the beans here. Just listen to the way they come in on “Inflection of Thee Smut.”

The most interesting death metal is the result smart arrangements and creative twists on the genre’s conventions. This record delivers both. 100 blistering riffs are as useless as a banjo if you don’t know where to put them. While the musicianship is stellar on Salvation Within Insanity, it’s the band itself that is the real instrument. The way they start, stop, switch tempos and swap fills is like a single unholy noise maker wielded by an ingeniously diabolical conductor. Here the empty spaces are just as important as the ones blasting with sound. Every pause is a quick chance to catch your breath before the next riff knocks the wind out of you again. The opening track, “Isolation Behind Unrealism” is a perfect example of Sijjeel at their best. Within seconds you get pounding riffs, disharmonic jazzy passages, time changes and fetid vocals spilling into your eardrums. By the time the song is over, a dozen riffs have shredded you.

There’s not much to complain about on this album. The intricate songwriting and dynamic production reward repeated listens. Where some death metal albums run out of ideas and lose their edge by side two, Salvation Within Insanity holds strong at an economical 34 minutes. There’s enough controlled insanity to keep you engaged without wearing out its welcome. My favorite moments are the ones that slow down and let the individual instruments take a bow. Floor Van Kuijk’s bass playing reminds me of Overkill’s DD Verni. His sound and style shine through Akbar’s intense riffing to create a groove like a jackhammer at an Earth Wind and Fire concert. The bass work on “Indignation Overcame Me” is worth the price of good headphones. Akbar’s guitar playing plows effortlessly from chugging riffage to technical melodic passages and harmonic squeals that would make Zakk Wylde blush. Adding the right human drummer could push the band to the next level.

Time will tell if Sijjeel enters the skin-adorned pantheon of death metal greats. If they do, it’s because this album set them on the track to blood and glory. If you’re looking for an record that will crush your skull but leave your brain intact to process all the goodness that’s going on, give Salvation Within Insanity a spin. The word “Sijjeel” translates to “baked clay.” The band may not be scorching new earth here, but they did bake one hot slab of death.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 319 kbps mp3
Label: Comatose Music
Releases Worldwide: June 3rd, 2022

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