posted on 11/2009 By:
I’ve found little in the world of music that compares with a new band that makes old music sound as vibrant and fresh as Sinister Realm’s self-titled debut. If you’ve any doubt as to this band’s alloyed authenticity, merely consider their spot on the illustrious roster of Shadow Kingdom Records, perhaps the frontrunner in traditional heavy metal and doom with outstanding recent releases from Revelation, Iron Man, Argus and Dawn of Winter. Also, the band was founded by Pale Divine bassist, John Gaffney. Well, that’s some damn lofty living up to do, but this Pennsylvania quintet take it all in stride, delivering reverent heavy metal as if it comes as naturally to them as putting on socks.
The strength of this album definitely lies in its songwriting. Not that its songs are boundary-busting paragons of fine art, because they aren’t. They are deftly crafted tribute to the Metal Gods, at whose altar so many devoted headbangers fall on bended knee. These are songs about such unapologetically Metal topics as epic battles, existential conflict and the fall of Man to Machine, each packaged with a plethora of equally obvious and true riffs and melodic leads that surely appease the Gods. They employ dynamic vocals that race all the blood to your fists, along with simple, infectious riffs and rousing solos that compel one foot to the edge of the nearest furniture to steady against the fury of the inevitable air guitar whirlwind. Think of any of your favorite old timey metal tunes and you’ll find something like it is to be found on this record: Judas Priest’s penchant for stupidly catchy anthemic choruses, Iron Maiden’s affinity for guitar gallantry, and Dio’s mysticism filtered through fantastically rendered vocalisms. And, while a ton of time is dedicated to the standard bearers of traditional heavy metal, it is clear that the Sinister Realm bleeds across borders into Doom’s dominion, as heads are bowed as well to the likes of Candlemass, Pentagram and, of course, Black Sabbath.
And, boy, do they stay true. It just doesn’t get any more Metal than the album’s standout apocalyptic anthem, “Machine God,”
Iron fists forever pounding
The life from those who would deny.
Sinners beg for their salvation.
Molten metal rains from the sky.
The destroyer of life.
To the unabashed allegiance to songs of yore, add the vim and vigor of Alex Kristof’s zealous vocals and some truly inspired leads, and Sinister Realm is elevated from impressive debut to legitimately excellent heavy metal album, never mind qualifications. But I do want to complain that the album version of “March of the Damned” doesn’t include the demo version’s battle sound effects, a touch that added an extra layer of fun to an already adventurous song. Not a big deal. It was just really cool and I miss it on the debut.
This whole album rocks and rolls from one great track to the next, but the band really knock you dead with the closing pair. I really like the placement of the incredible instrumental title track, a galloping riff-fest of Maidenesque proportions, just ahead of album closer “The Circle is Broken.” This last track effectively stays the relentless advance of its predecessor by bestowing upon the listener a spellbinding vista of traditional doom in all its epic glory.
Man, what a great year for doom and heavy metal. Sinister Realm’s pronounced love of both, translated through great songs and sincere delivery, propels their debut to the top of the heap. Sinister Realm is recommended for anybody who loves classic heavy metal and essential for those of you who live it.
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