All too often, technical death metal may feel soulless, as if its impressive technicality lacks a pulse. Similarly, progressive strains of death metal may end up meandering without proper direction, impetus or impact. Both styles strive to push the envelope, but frequently fall short. With a new 4-track EP Aletheia, Sutrah shows how all this is done with resounding success and spectacular results.
In comparison, Sutrah’s previous release Dunes — a stellar album in its own right, one that reached the #6 position on my best of 2017 list — now feels more like a proof of concept that Aletheia refines and raises to the power of infinity in terms of hyper-charged velocity, fluidity and imagination. On Aletheia everything flows even smoother and more organically than on Dunes, with sustained forward-momentum that is always building towards increasingly powerful crescendos. Sutrah possesses a preternatural ability for creating compositions that feel elegant, weightless and floating while simultaneously breakneck and brutal in terms of speed, intensity and density, a combination that simply should not work in practice with such naturalness, but nevertheless does, thanks to songcraft and execution that combine the finesse of a ballet dancer, surgical precision of a drone strike and bone-shattering impact of a battering ram.
Transitioning from the graceful introductory build-up of “Umwelt,” “Lethe” immediately explodes with the thermal energy and blinding radiance of a thousand suns. Opening with a god-level riff for the ages, it contains a whirlwind of thrilling riffs and breathtaking melody, with an unstoppable momentum that keeps on growing in ever-increasing intensity to a point of near-disbelief, where you begin to fear that the band members will spontaneously combust amidst the pyrotechnics. Kévin Paradis is the manifestation of Bhairava, drumming in a state of firmly controlled frenzy and delivering destruction with a furious storm of rolls and fills. Throughout the EP, Claude Leduc and Alex Bao translate the aforementioned opening riff’s leitmotif into inventive variations and blazing permutations, which enrich the theme and narrative running through the four songs and imbue the experience with a majestic flow and cohesion.
In my praise of Dunes, I noted that “it takes a certain degree of vision and musicianship to write nearly 10-minute tech death songs that remain captivating and catchy, and are infused with a progressive spirit that makes your mind’s eye go wild.” Never content to rest on the laurels of their past artistic achievements, Sutrah ups the ante with the audaciously adventurous 16-minute “Genèse,” a work of marvel that is uplifting both in tone and in the spiritual sense. The natural point of comparison for “Genèse” would be Blood Incantation’s massive “Awakening from the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul)” from last year. The two bands and their respective magnum opuses are kindred spirits in terms of ambition and readiness to journey into the unknown regions of space, both inner and outer, but a major stylistic contrast is found in the luminescent effervescence and resonating harmony of Sutrah’s composition, which evokes a powerful experience of exultation.
At once fierce and soulful, Aletheia is by far the most numinous, trance-inducing and beautiful death metal release of the genre’s current golden age. With Aletheia, Sutrah enters the pantheon of envelope-pushing, boundary-melting death metal, testament to the ability of metal to pursue and achieve transcendence. The godhead of metal beckons to Sutrah and they have now stepped into the light.