|#FOR FANS OF: Symph Death/Black
Founded in 2008 by Sean Zimmerman and Garrett Garvey, the Californian duo Sarcoptes has always taken its time to release new stuff, as we have enjoyed only two Eps and two full lengths in its 15 years of existence. Luckily, both the EP, and especially, the impressive debut album 'Songs and Dances of Death', were worth of our time. Not being a great fan of thrash metal influenced black metal, the debut effort took me by surprise with its absolutely tasteful mixture of purely black and thrash metal riffs, achieving an excellent merge of both genres. If this wouldn’t be enough, the band introduced symphonic elements through the whole album, not in an astonishing quantity, but very tastefully used and placed, creating a truly majestic album which definitively made me love it.
So, seven years after the aforementioned great debut, and after the quite interesting EP 'Plague Hymns', Sarcoptes returns with its sophomore album 'Prayers to Oblivion'. The second opus is always a crucial moment for every band. It might be the project’s milestone or should start questioning if the project was only a one-day success band. Thankfully, 'Prayers to Oblivion' proves to be the first case and confirms that Sarcoptes is definitely to stay with us, hopefully, for a long time. The previously mentioned EP gave us some clues about Sarcoptes evolution with this new album. If 'Plague Hymns' showed more ferocious and also intricated compositions with an amazing guitar work, 'Prayers to Oblivion' confirms this evolution with a collection of five songs, where there isn’t a single second which could be considered a filler. The more aggressive approach could let me think that the symphonic and epic touches of the first work could be gone or severely decreased, but fortunately this is not the case. Sarcoptes has managed to create and album full of blast-beasts, but without lacking the symphonic and atmospheric arrangements, and seriously elaborated compositions. There is room for straightforward aggression, and as well for truly majestic moments. In that sense, there is a great differentiation between the shorter tracks, "Spanish Flu" and "Tet", and the rest which are way longer. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that both short tracks lack of total variety and grandeur. But logically, a track like for example, "Spanish Flu", shows no mercy in terms of speed and pure brutality, where I would like to highlight the drums, which are absolutely smashing, remarkably with the hammering double-bass. As said, the shorter tracks show the most brutal face of Sarcoptes, although they keep the symphonic elements which is something I really appreciate. On the other hand, we have the longer compositions, and seriously, this is where Sarcoptes delivers the goods. As I always say, longer compositions can be risk because you need a certain degree of inspiration if you don’t want to create an unfinishable boresfest. But we don’t have to be worried about it in this magnificent album. From the extraordinary album opener, "The Trenches", Sarcoptes proves the amount of work they have put on this album. The production has been improved, everything sounds cleaner and especially more powerful. The debut’s sound was already very good in my opinion, but 'Prayers to Oblivion' proves that experience is always a key element. The song sounds crushing, and it is especially fast, with the mentioned devastating drums. The riffing is top-notch, excellently executed and varied. Pace wise, this composition reflects what the rest the album will give, relentless speed but never lacking variety in terms of tempo changes where it is needed. Don't expect boring monorhythmic compositions, but severely fast songs with enough changes to keep you absolutely hypnotized. As they did in their debut album, the key arrangements are very tastefully placed, never overshadowing the other instruments, but sounding equally loud, so you can appreciate and enjoy them. The arrangements add the majestic touch I love from this band and also have experienced an evolution or better said, an enrichment, as they sound more varied. Brutality meets epicness, and believe me, it really works. The third track "Dead Silence" follows similar patterns, being equally intense, majestic, and varied with a wonderful final part with all the epic feeling you could imagine. The album closer "Massacre at My Lai", has probably the longest section of all the album with a mid-tempo pace, which gives you some time to breath, but the intensity is increased till the song becomes a total apocalypse. Then, the song reaches its inevitable ending with a much more atmospheric and calmer final act. It’s like the pace you will find in a land devastated land by a hurricane. What an ending.
'Prayers to Oblivion' by Sarcoptes is definitively a tremendous sophomore album, an effort that should place them in the first line of the scene. Its incredibly well achieved mixture of speed, insane brutality, exquisite melodies, and excellent symphonic arrangements, deserves all the praise they should receive. (Alain González Artola)
(Transcending Obscurity Records - 2023)