Reviewed: June 2020
Released: 2020, Rockshots Records
15 years in the making, Sinisthra’s follow-up to their 2005 debut, Last Of The Stories Of Long Past Glories, has taken a lengthy and arduous route from conception to realisation.
Significantly, The Broad And Beaten Way is a reference to the long, endangered path taken by Satan as he traversed to Earth in John Milton’s poem, Paradise Lost.
Milton’s account was of an epic journey through a landscape of challenging passages and breathtaking vistas, and it would be fair to say that on their second full length album, Sinisthra have presented a effective aural rendering of just such an expedition; one that reflects not just the grandiosity of the music but also the scale of the distance from the beginning of the journey to the end.
The band describe the songwriting here as being infused with “sadness, tinged with despair and hope.” Lyrically, they describe it as taking inspiration from the fall of man, “from leading a chaotic and self-destructive modern-day life and trying to find solid ground and perhaps even some peace of mind.”
They elaborate: “Markku Mäkinen (guitars) writes the majority of the music. The songs were written ages ago while other projects (primarily vocalist Tomi Joutsen’s presence in Amorphis) were given priority. We all had a history in thrash and death metal bands, although, when the band originally came together in 2000, there was not much metal at all in our sound, it was leaning more towards grunge and at times trip-hop. After the first album in 2005, the sound took a lot more metallic turn and something came in from 70’s prog as well.” They add, “Metal genres are irrelevant to us.”
Maintaining some of that early grunge influence, the band come crashing in with the solid crunch of Eterne. With a steady pace, Tomi Joutsen soars above the music with a full and melodic voice, immediately marking the vocals out as a central highlight. Known for his ability to switch from a deathly growl to a soaring, clean vocal, he keeps it smooth here, and does so for the duration of the album, hitting his stride with a particularly rich performance on Closely Guarded Distance.
By their own account, the band have singled the 13 minute Closely Guarded Distance out as the showcase track, and not without good reason. The most dynamic track on the album, it swoops from heavy, Sabbath-esque passages into quieter, beautifully rendered piano-led parts; I’d almost go as far to say the record is worth a purchase for this song alone. Truly triumphant.
From here, Sinisthra maintain a more measured, brooding atmosphere. Comparisons can be made to Katatonia, Anathema, and of course, Amorphis. Everything is rooted in melancholy – the music advancing at its own pace. Each song drifting, unfolding and enveloping the listener with an ebb and flow that crescendos and subsides. The effect is not unlike an ocean that rises and falls with the tide… occasionally dark and powerful, other times serene and calming.
Songs like Morningfrail and Ephemeral showcase the more contemplative side of the band perfectly and the latter brings the album to a satisfying close. There are only six songs on this release, but they are so delightfully and impressively arranged, and performed in such a masterful way, I’ve found this to be a compelling album that I’ve made repeat visits to.