The Shadow Inside

Nuclear Blast
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. First Blood
02. Scorched And Burnt
03. It's The Sickness
04. Ride The Knife
05. Anarchy
06. The Devil In Me
07. Pain
08. No Peace
09. New Beginnings
10. The Shadow Inside

For those that worship at the dual altars of thrash and death metal, SADUS are an unassailable benchmark. The Californians' first three albums — "Illusions" (1988),  "Swallowed In Black" (1990) and "A Vision of Misery" (1992) — are all stone-cold classics, and even though their output fizzled to a disappointing stop with 1997's patchy "Elements of Anger", it remains difficult to think of a band that ever combined the two disciplines with such venomous abandon.

They split in 2015, returning a couple of years later with a follow-up to 2006's solid but unremarkable "Out For Blood" tentatively on the cards. Finally, after losing talismanic bassist Steve DiGiorgio to his time-consuming TESTAMENT gig, frontman/guitarist Darren Travis and drummer Jon Allen have delivered on that vague promise. Essentially a two-piece at this point, SADUS have a big reputation to live up to, not to mention a golden opportunity to elicit some long overdue acclaim and praise for their never-less-than-face-ripping trademark sound. A big label return for some certified unsung heroes, "The Shadow Inside" aims to recapture the feral spirit of the old days, but with a modern production that places SADUS squarely at the heart of contemporary extreme metal.

Veteran status be damned: this thing fucking rips, and with all the energy, spikiness and authority that made that first trio of albums such unparalleled headbang fodder. "First Blood" begins with a suitably imperious intro, then Darren Travis unleashes a ferocious riff, underpinned by Jon Allen's super-tight drumming, and then all deathly hell breaks loose. The frontman's voice — a ragged, bilious screech, nasty enough to strip skin — hasn't aged a day and may even be more vitriolic than it was back on old classics like "Good Ridn'z" and "Certain Death". It's an epic start to an album that frequently echoes the past, but with enhanced levels of force and fury. "Scorched And Burnt" and "It's The Sickness" are both riotous bursts of dark, steroidal thrash. The latter, in particular, is a gleaming gem. SADUS always hit harder than most of their peers, and with the possible exception of KREATOR, that genuinely seems to still be the case. Evil riffs, percussive insanity, hateful hooks: this is militant heavy metal, straight from the gut and rippling with passion.

The abominable assault continues. "Ride The Knife", released as a single a few months ago, is already an established SADUS classic, and as intense as anything the band have ever released. "Anarchy" is just nuts: two-and-a-half minutes of hell-for-leather thuggery with a distinct VADER-like vibe. In contrast, "The Devil In Me" takes a more expansive route, with ululating waves of mid-paced brutality, and a chorus that would be seriously catchy if Travis didn't sound like a man with his innards being slowly drawn out through his eye sockets.

The pace slows for "Pain", which takes a more atmospheric approach, and oozes sinister intent. "No Peace" is full of ingenious discord and refined changes of pace and tempo, with a tremendous Travis lead break that adds some welcome, wayward melody. Finally, after the instrumental mirage of "New Beginnings", the title track mutates from treacly, doom-dazed set-up to beefed-up and murderous payoff, with old-school trimmings, skewed melodic solos and another insane vocal from Travis.

Those old enough to have witnessed SADUS in their early '90s pomp will already be all over this like a grim dose of shingles, but in truth, any metalhead with functioning ears will recognize "The Shadow Inside" as a stunning comeback, and the beginning of a thrilling new chapter for the unofficial rulers of death-thrash. Welcome back, kings!

Author: Dom Lawson
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