Difficult but mostly rewarding...
Black metal outfit Sator Malus hail from the Netherlands. Their members are drawn from many bands from that nation’s BM scene. Beyond that I’m afraid I know very little. I suspect this is just as the band planned, however, and this lack of enlightenment hasn’t spoilt my enjoyment of their debut record.
Dark Matters is a mournful, doom-laden piece of black metal art. Despite a claim on their bandcamp page that positions the band as being ‘anti-human’ there is a real soulfulness to the music. This stems mainly from the superb vocals of Pestus. He adds a real otherworldly dimension to the music, way beyond the standard black metal croak/roar. On final track Endless Cycle of Life and Death – the best on the album – his performance is spinechilling. Reaching down into his very depths he produces a performance far beyond that usually expected from this style of music. Reminiscent of Bathory and Peccatum (at least vocally), this is revelationary music.
The band fail to reach those heights on the other tracks on the record. This isn’t criticism of those plural other songs, merely more approbation for the singular. Opener Ominous Overture is exactly that. Next track Eerie Elemental Eidos is more straightforward and features some great riffing from Naberius and Allocer.
That opener and the seven-minute-long My Journey apart, all the songs here are ten minutes plus in duration. Some listeners may find this daunting as songs mostly tend to be one-paced and grinding. However if funereal black metal is something you crave, that will be no problem I’m sure. Seeds of the Plague is perhaps most testing to the ears, although Pestus does add colour in the song’s mid section. The uptempo end to the track is redolent of Britain’s Crom Dubh, which may attract some readers to Sator Malus. I hope So.
My Journey is a real uptempo track. VVvlfskvvintvs gives the kit a real pounding. But conversely the track is also the least interesting on the album. Speed up, ideas… down.
Penultimate track Armed Hatred is similarly prosaic in design, with a paucity of interest that makes the track easy to hop over when returning to play again. Which leaves that superb closing track to round things off.
Almost certainly the band needs to attend to the length of its songs. But other than this there are plenty of elements here to appeal to hardcore black metal fans. However, floating listeners probably need not apply.
Dark Matters is out now on Forever Plagued Records
After this review went to publication the Sentinel Daily office received this missive from Sator Malus axeponent Allocer:
“Thanks very much for your review of Sator Malus – Dark Matters album! Only it’s not Pestus who does ALL the singing on Endless Cycles Of Life And Death, it’s IX – singer/guitarist/composer from Urfaust – who does the clean parts”.
We are of course pleased to clear this confusion up – Ed.