Released: 2008, Negativity Records
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Primitive black metal is rarely my cup of tea. When I’m in the mood, I’ll load up an old album by Mayhem, Ulver, or maybe Emperor. There’s an undeniable appeal in the shoddy production, crudely misplaced angst, and matchless energy in these recordings, something that transcends the sum of their ill-made parts. Partly out of style and partly out of necessity, Alaska’s Satanist takes this 20-years-going old school vibe and does a pretty darn good job of bringing into the 21st century with a breath of fresh (or is it evil?) air.
Satanist is made up of only two members – ‘Gilles de Rais’ and the ‘Marquis de Sade,’ who both operate from a tiny town in Alaska called Barrow. Check it out on Google maps, and you’ll see that these guys live as close to the end of the world as most of us will get. Unsurprisingly, SADOMASOCHRIST sounds like it was recorded in a freezer (and yes, that’s a good thing. I take my black metal with two spoonfuls of ice.) The guitars have a nihilistic, utterly dead reverberance about them, and Mr. de Sade delivers an exceptionally hateful vocal performance with an intensity significantly beyond what I've come to expect from most vocalists. Mr. de Rais also has a surprisingly pleasant clean vocal, used for some background harmony work on “Eliphas Levi.” I was disappointed that it only appears once – more use of it would add some nice contrasting textures.
Brutal tracks like “Dawn of Baphomet” and “Sadomasochrist” are superbly composed, with plenty of headbanging riffs and venomous vocals. For such a small & remote outfit, these guys know how to put together one hell of a song. When not filled with speedy blastbeats and buzzsaw guitars, Satanist also knows how to slow things down – the introspective, groovy “Kingdom Within” should serve as an anthem for “KVLT” black metal fans around the world with its particularly poignant lyrical theme of solitude and misanthrope.
Satanist’s lyrical theme is unsurprisingly centered upon Satanic dogma, but Satanist has gone above and beyond to make their lyrics as intelligent (and oftentimes intelligible) as possible. If ever I felt like worshipping Satan one day, it would likely be inspired by Satanist’s lyrics.
My hang-ups with SADOMASOCHRIST lie with the excessive keyboard-filled tracks and the drum machine used in lieu of a real drummer. While I can’t blame a smaller band like Satanist for not having access to a skilled black metal drummer living at the absolute end of the world, the drum machine is often painfully noticeable during blastbeats and repeated cymbal crashes. However, when well programmed, it sounds pretty darn good, especially on opening killer track “Dawn of Baphomet.”
Then come the cheesy keyboards – the intro is a cliched “scary demon voice” on top of keys that recites some Satanic prayer. Tracks 7, 9, and 10 are purely keyboard ambiance pieces, with the closing “Ordo Templi Satanis” reserved as a grotesquely long spoken-word oath of allegiance & blasphemy to the 30+ aliases of Satan. While most of these tracks don’t break up the main body of SADOMASOCHRIST, they don’t serve much musical purpose and should have been cut out altogether. I realize that Satanist felt the need to emphasize how utterly evil they are, but degrading their otherwise excellent album with cheesy fluff is inexcusable.
SADOMASOCHRIST is an album that definitely should be purchased by any fan of old-school black metal, or anyone else who is looking for a truly blasphemous metal experience. There’s a certain charm & intensity this duo has captured despite the semi-crude recording, and they’ve managed to freshen up a musical genre long left for dead. I continue to be haunted by by some of the tracks months after my initial writing of this review, so it has the rarity of some staying power amongst hordes of albums I forget two minutes after reviewing them. Hail Satanist!