Review Summary: Think of it like Dissection, but without the murder, racism and other bullshit associated with Jon Nodtveidt.
Every couple of days or so when I sign on to Sputnikmusic I notice a list with the name “Music I Found Through Sputnik” or something similar to that. After the last appearance of one of these aptly titled lists it got me thinking; what music that I currently enjoy do I owe to this wondrous website that has begun to consume me? The first thing that came to mind was Norway's largest cultural export: Black Metal. Everyone knows the classic bands of the genre Ulver, Emperor, Dissection, Burzum and the like, but there are a many a good Black Metal band that can hold their own with the genre's giants but are looked over. Sacramentum is one of those bands.
Sacramentum's first EP, 1995's Finis Malorum
rode heavy on Dissection's coattails with its mixture of Black Metal's atmosphere and speed with the technicality and arrangement normally found in Death Metal. Their next release, Far Away From the Sun
, expounded on the ideas first touched upon in their EP and refined them into a work of Black Metal that almost rivals Dissection's Storm of the Light's Bane
The first thing that catches your attention while listening to Far Away From the Sun
is drummer Niklas Rudolfsson. His breakneck drumming is the focal point of all the songs from the get go. His frenetic yet inventive style melds perfectly into the spiderweb-like arrangements. The drums also have the benefit of being the loudest instrument in the mix which further puts them at the forefront of the music.
As with most Black Metal bands of the era, a large portion of the guitar work consists of heavily distorted, tremolo picked guitars. In theory Sacramentum are doing nothing different from their peers, but in practice that just isn't so. The speed and precision of the guitarists along with their knack for harmonic structures conveys more than the desolate mood that is reflected by most bands of the era, it creates the forceful state of anger and discourse that makes Far Away From the Sun
Even though Far Away From the Sun
is a shining example of the genre, its the little things that drag it down. Dan Swano's production, though standard for the time, is more devoid of bass than usual. With the bass turned all the way up on my stereo it was still hard to hear, which is a shame because (from what little I could make out) it seems rather well done and lives up to the technicality found on the rest of the album. Also, vocalist Nils Karlen's penchant for clean vocals distracts from the music. The key example of this is the outro track where the lack of melody and tune in his voice clashes with the music beneath it. Even though they are used sparingly elsewhere they have the same effect and just aren't needed.
Sacramentum's Far Away From the Sun
is clearly their best effort yet sadly it marked their last album with any notable Black Metal influence. With their later releases they began to fall in line with the rest of their Gothenburg brethren and released a series of Melodic Death Metal albums of questionable quality before disbanding in 1999. So fellow fans of Black Metal, do your self a favor and listen to Far Away From the Sun
if you haven't yet. Just think of it like Dissection, but without the murder, racism and other bull*** associated with Jon Nodtveidt.