Released: 2013, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Costa Rica is known for its awesome beaches, lush jungles and huge-ass, potentially lethal spiders. But death metal? Who knew? Sight of Emptiness have been around since 2005 and while they have yet so secure a record deal, they have earned enough of a reputation in the metal underground to secure guest appearances by ex-Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover, ex-Deicide/Obituary guitarist Ralph Santolla, Ugly Kid Joe vocalist Whitfield Crane and, of all people, Manuel Obregón, Costa Rica's minister of culture, for this their third album.
Though again self-released, INSTINCTS should, one might think, garner get the band some attention from the rank and file – if not some label folk - and not merely by virtue of the guest spots, but because it's a pretty excellent album. Melodic progressive death metal with a South American flare and surprisingly strong songwriting and production, it makes for one of the year's more pleasant surprises.
In some weird way, Sight of Emptiness come across as a strange hybrid of Amon Amarth or The Black Dahlia Murder and Dream Theater. Their surging, epic metal powered by the gritty guitars of the Castro brothers Andrés and Rafael and burly growl of Eduardo Chacon is transposed against sometimes dizzying arrangements, keyboard forays and opulent melodies and choruses draped in soaring clean vocals – here usually provided by guests such as the aforementioned Crane and Scar Symmetry's Christian Älvestam, who turns up on three songs.
Yet it meshes together, for the most part, remarkably well. These guys have really been doing their homework behind the scenes as far as songcraft goes. The flamenco-style piano conclusion – courtesy of Minister Obregón - to the otherwise concussive “Paradox” or the whip-snap Jekyll and Hyde dynamism of “Fearless” - with Älvestam's soaring singing and Drover's delicate solos played against a raging metal shitstorm - sound natural and genuine, not like someone trying to be too clever or seeing what they can get away with. “Genetics” ventures into Voivod territory with its spurts of angular industrial guitar shriek, but emerges unscathed as does the instrumental “Sanctuary” which finishes in a wash of symphonics.
Curiously, the more straight-ahead tracks like the Soilworky “Hostility” or “Passion” don't resonate quite as well as the more complex or involved numbers like the opener “Essence,” which features Crane for the big, catchy choruses but also goes off on a couple Ihsahn-like black-prog jaunts. And perhaps that's because Soilworky bands are a dime a dozen these days. Bands as carefree and, to borrow from one of their song titles, “Fearless” as Sight Of Emptiness, however, have become the exception rather than the rule and deserve better than obscurity and self reliance. Perhaps INSTINCTS will see an end to that.