What's this? A new Sadist album? Yes, please! A new Hitchcockian themed Sadist album? Definitely, yes, please! One of the finest post-Schuldiner progressive death metal bands out there, these super talented Italian stalwarts have turned to the master of suspense, the legendary auteur, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, for 'Spellbound', their eighth studio album, which follows more swiftly in the footsteps of 2015's 'Hyaena' than that album did 2010's 'Season in Silence'.
Most track titles have been lifted directly from names of Hitchcock masterpieces, right from his early silent movies like 'The Mountain Eagle', right through to universally celebrated, perennial classics like 'Rear Window' and 'The Birds', and into his less-prolific 70s period with 'Frenzy'. However, a few are linked via overt references to their source, such as the 'Psycho' themed, hammily titled, 'Bloody Bates'. The cover art's also great, I must say. It centres around imagery from 'Psycho', but cheekily incorporates a few other Hitchcock references. They're there to be spotted for the Hitchcock geeks!
So, then, the music itself? To be honest, I expected more from the unifying Hitchcock theme here. Perhaps some more variety in Sadist's sound, with passages to better reflect the suspenseful dynamic of their chosen cinematic source for each of the tracks. Aside from a couple of atmospheric instrumental pieces to bookend the album, and a small number of other moments throughout the songs ('Notorius' is a good example, here... a further instrumental piece where the death element of Sadist's sound takes a back seat), it's business as usual for these Italians. As such, it feels like just another Sadist album. More of the same. A little more swayed towards a darker dynamic, perhaps, but, effectively, more of the same. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as I love Sadist just as they are. And they've delivered the goods once again.
Some of Tommy Talamanca's keys work is fantastic here, as is his guitar playing. Phenomenal, in fact. And I've said this before, but this virtuoso needs to be seen in live action to fully appreciate his talents, as he simultaneously plays keyboards and guitar with seemingly utter ease, yet with breathtaking precision. On the album, he does succeed in adding moments of suspense, as I've already commented, but it's the progressive death onslaught that dominates most of the playing time, with a commandingly growled turn by frontman Trevor Nadir. 'Frenzy' is, perhaps, the exception, which is nicely diversified within its four minute duration. And what's going on for the intro of 'Bloody Bates'? It sounds ever so slightly reminiscent of the start to Devilment's 'Hitchcock Blonde'. Subconscious mimicry, maybe?
Had Sadist married concept with music in a more artistically integrated way, this could've been something truly special. It is still very special, though, albeit falls short of perfection through a missed opportunity in blending the celluloid work of a master auteur with their own sense of virtuosic musical mastery.
Review by Mark Holmes
9th November 2018
1) 39 Steps
2) The Birds
4) Rear Window
5) Bloody Bates
7) Stage Fright
8) I'm the Man Who Knew Too Much
10) The Mountain Eagle
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Had Sadist married concept with music in a more artistically integrated way, this could've been something truly special. It is still very special, though, albeit falls short of perfection through a missed opportunity in blending the celluloid work of a master auteur with their own sense of virtuosic musical mastery."