Sometimes you need music that will puzzle you and challenge you. Something that you can close your eyes and focus on, and still feel like you’re working on a chess puzzle as you try to resolve the shifting rhythms and melodies into something coherent. It’s a great thing to be able to listen to music and keep your mind working at the same time, feeling that the music is built to resist your attempts to solve it so that by figuring it out you will grow somehow as a person, becoming a better version of yourself.
Other times, you just need to rock the fuck out.
And if today’s one of those days, then boy oh boy do I have the album for you. Sanctrum’s latest album, Rot, doesn’t fight you. It grabs you and drags you into its world of groove/ thrash abandon, its riffs and hooks immediate and powerful. Think of it as that friend who insists you go out no matter how early you have to be up in the morning, and that you always have a great time with. Because on Rot, the Swedish metallers demonstrate their aptitude at writing heavy music that’s gripping and fun, the year of hard work that went into the album paying off in ten tracks of absolute carnage.
Tonally, Sanctrum lean heavily towards a Gothenburg sound, which fits their vocalist Irfan Cancar’s competencies. He reminds me a lot of In Flames’ Anders Friden in his expressiveness and diversity while screaming, demonstrating the same ability to create vocal hooks even as his screaming is at its most aggressive. He also shares another important skill with Friden: he can carry a huge chorus. When the riffs reach peak intensity, he’s right there with them, his performance never overshadowed. While part of this can be attributed to the stellar vocal production, most of the credit lies with Cancar’s power and competency as a vocalist, delivering a top shelf melodic-death style assault.
Fortunately, the band’s instrumental section more than does this performance justice. The riffs here aren’t just catchy fun. They’re also technical and interesting, and while the heaviness is unrelenting, it isn’t a one note performance. The band find plenty of room to experiment with tempo and dynamics, every song crammed with stylistic flourishes and clever touches amongst the neck-snapping riffs. The album doesn’t require a deep examination to be enjoyed, but if you care to look, there’s a series of whirring cogs and levers under the hood. The loving nature of the vocal production is felt here too, the guitar tone explosive and the drums unflinchingly precise. It’s heaviness treated with an artful touch that belies the album’s bruising nature.
With Rot, Sanctrum have built a crushing showcase for their abilities as a band. Both savage and refined, the album is a guilt-free metal firestorm. Scintillating late-album track “The Ritual” is embedded below. The rest of the album is available on Sanctrum’s iTunes.