It’s been a while since I have touched a progressive death metal record – not since Alustrium’s A Monument To Silence – and while I’ve been doing some listening behind the scenes, it struck as odd that I haven’t really been giving one of my favorite death metal subgenres a proper listen. Imagine my delight in finding an album that struck a chord with me the more time I spent with it, becoming more and more experimental and dissonant the further in I ventured. For an album that makes me question where the established line between progression and technicality begins to blur, Sadist’s Firescorched is an impressive feat of musicianship.
Before I start, I want to mention that if it sounds like something you’ve heard before, you are not wrong. For this album, Sadist recruited Jeroen Paul Thesseling and Romain Goulon on bass and drums. Basically, that impressive technicality you hear is supplied by former members of both Obscura and Necrophagist, respectively.
Firescorched is the type of album whose tension is built by keeping the listener in suspense; you never know when you are going to get either a fretless bass solo or what sounds like Kekal’s infernal electronic outbursts acting as the backing melody during a guitar solo. After all, it starts innocently enough as a progressive death metal album before it ultimately takes off in unexpected ways. It pulls off one of the most impressive bait-and-switches I have heard in a long while – the more comfortable you become, the more Sadist opts to add something in between the heavy drumming and guitar. Before you know it, the heavy keyboards and synthesizers are prominent, the sound becomes more dissonant, and the atmosphere ultimately shifts into an amalgamation of various influences that should not go together but do. This is prominent on tracks “Finger Food,” “Loa,” and the title track where piano, strings, and electronics become the focal point, giving them an eerie feel.
On the latter half, the music becomes more technical – that is, the band really shows off their instrumental mastery. Sadist allow themselves to become groovier, emphasizing the electronics, but still keeping it within that technical range. Between changing from expert technical mastery to the inherent manipulation of a riff by giving it a staccato gallop, this flurry of activity increases the musical pacing, almost as if you are on a rollercoaster.
All in all, Firescorched is a hell of an album whose experimentation showcases the potential evolution and further blurring lines between the definition of prog and tech death. Whatever your preference, no one can deny that Sadist’s musicianship, combined with its atmosphere and its tendency to shift through a kaleidoscope of influences, is both superb and intense.