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Some genuine and refreshingly progressive death is the order of the day here with 'Hyaena', Sadist's seventh studio album, and their first new material for five years. A long wait some might say, but it's been worth the wait as there's some seriously great music on this record, which offers a refreshing blast of originality and innovation in terms of both death and prog. In fact, to label this as "Progressive Death Metal ", which is precisely what it has been in the press release accompanying this promo, is way too simple. Apart from Trevor Sadist's growled vocals, this is not death metal in any traditional sense of the genre. And nor is it prog metal with any kind of generic trappings. Rather, this is, more simply, just Sadist, doing what Sadist do best - blending a heterogeneity of metal idioms in the most original and compelling of ways, with nods to various other genres. So, with 'Hyaena', we have ethnic and tribal flavours thrown into the mix, rhythmically and with occasional use of some more exotic instruments, to sonically reflect the album's conceptual nature, which concerns "one of Africa's most fascinating predators, whose legend says is ridden by the devil." Jazzy interludes and elements are also introduced into their palette, as are some offbeat melodies and sounds, and well-posited tempo changes, plus a variety of time signatures (both conventional and the more usual), which makes for a compelling and subtly complex listen. But one where the complexity is never forced or dominant, as the compositions are, on the whole, accessible, even if some of the melodies do take a little time to digest. However, once those melodies work their magic over a number of listens, they're ever so infectious.

I had the utmost of pleasure in witnessing Sadist live some three years ago, when they hopped onto Suffocation's UK tour at the eleventh hour, after Hate pulled out. My lasting memory of that performance, apart from the band's collectively wondrous show, was Tommy Talamanca's sheer virtuosity, occasionally playing guitar with his left hand by hammering-on chords, while simultaneously performing keyboard parts with his right hand. The precision of that duality was breathtaking. Suffice to say, 'Hyaena' is loaded with that keyboard/guitar duality (which I presume would've been tracked separately in the studio), although I still have that image of the guy in mind when listening to this new stuff. His lead guitar during solo spots is perhaps a little too high in the mix on occasion; however, with such a lush tone, he can be forgiven. The tone of his guitar sounds magnificent throughout, in fact, be it rhythm or lead, clean or distorted. Andy Marchini's performance on bass is equally great, and manages to colour songs with further innovative depth (including some fantastic fretless work), as does Alessio Spallarossa with his technically precise drumming.

Lyrical themes are, as I already stated, pinned down conceptually, although quite what 'Genital Mask' is about, I haven't a clue. You'd probably be best off refraining from typing the phrase "Sadist Genital Mask" into a Google image search, though, as fuck knows what perversities that'd throw up! Some between-song samples have also been introduced into proceedings, mainly a mix of identifiable and unidentifiable animal noises, which neatly bind songs together, providing the feeling of a concept, even if lyrics aren't always discernible through Trevor's growls.

On the whole, 'Hyaena' is a phenomenal album with a great production and some seriously accomplished compositions, arrangements and performances. It's a more than welcome return from Sadist and I sincerely hope this record finds the wide audience it so truly deserves as this bunch of Italians are one of the most important prog-death bands in a post-Chuck Schuldiner era. I'm certain Chuck himself would've adored this.
Scarlet Records
Review by Mark Holmes
16th Oct 2015
1) The Lonely Mountain
2) Pachycrocuta
3) Bouki
4) The Devil Riding the Evil Steed
5) Scavenger and Thief
6) Gadawan Kura
7) Eternal Enemies
8) African Devourers
9) Scratching Rocks
10) Genital Mask
"...one of the most important prog-death bands in a post-Chuck Schuldiner era."