rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Accabadora
02. Fleshbound
03. Finger Food
04. Burial of a Clown
05. Loa
06. Aggression Regression
07. Three Mothers and the Old Devil Father
08. Trauma (Impaired Mind Functionality)
09. Firescorched

Progressive death metal is enjoying a particularly rich period in its history right now, with countless great new bands doing strange and wonderful things with brutal music. It is also an excellent time to give SADIST some long due recognition. Italy's masters of deeply weird extremity clearly take pride in their underground ethics, but the music they have made over the last 20 years has generally been pretty accessible too, albeit in a very twisted kind of way. Superficially, "Firescorched" is a much more vicious and aggressive record than 2018's "Spellbound", but it's also wildly entertaining.

Opener "Accabadora" is a feast of gothic opulence and grandiose terror, with frontman Trevor Nadir in full be-cloaked demon mode. It's a dramatic start, astutely followed by the razor-slash schizophrenia of "Fleshbound", wherein skull-rattling thrash riffs and looping, fretless bass collide with a warped but eminently hummable chorus and a hugely peculiar burst of isolated, stuttering synths. Recent single "Finger Food" is even catchier, despite plainly being the product of twisted minds. Kicking off with a full throttle, angular melo-death attack, it takes several unhinged left turns and, lyrically speaking, will probably put you off your dinner. SADIST have always been significantly more deranged than most of their peers, of course: early albums like "Crust" and "Lego" poked at boundaries with a complete lack of self-consciousness and were all the stronger as a result. "Firescorched" is very much in that same tradition, but the Italians have become adept at bringing the theoretically implausible to life. "Burial of a Clown" shouldn't really work: two parts all-out death metal attack to one part cock-eyed electro-noir, it's audacious and wonderfully eccentric.

Elsewhere, "Loa" is an intermittently pretty prog metal instrumental that reveals an unexpected, sweet side to SADIST's repertoire, while also veering off on all manner of dissonant tangents. "Aggression Regression" goes directly for any nearby throats, with a labyrinth of razor-wire riffs and skittering, jazzy transitions; "Trauma (Impaired Functionality)" is all rolling grooves and mid-paced crunch, until a disarming acoustic final descent gently flips the script. "Three Mothers and the Old Devil Father" marries prog metal showboating and myopic blasting to fidgeting electro hooks and a cool, hard rock stomp, while the closing title track is a sickening horror movie soundtrack condensed into four hysterically intense and off-kilter minutes. Once again, the fact that no one else sounds like this is a huge selling point on its own. "Firescorched" is yet another great record by one of metal's most willfully contrary but always fascinating bands. You simply can't fake this level of weird.

Author: Dom Lawson
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