Album Review: Celestial Sanctuary - An Insatiable Thirst for Torment

Album Review: Celestial Sanctuary - An Insatiable Thirst for Torment

UK Death Metal titans Celestial Sanctuary return with their sophomore effort ‘An Insatiable Thirst for Torment’. Following on from their impressive 2021 debut album ‘Soul Diminished’, the latest release sees them up their game, proving they have the chops to justify their place at the forefront of the burgeoning “OSDM revival” scene in the UK. Everything on this album feels bigger, heavier and more polished than its predecessor, while still retaining the “classic” Death Metal sound and song structures that were present on the first album.

Guitar and vocalist Tom Cronin says: “This album fully unleashes what we’re all about. It’s heavier, it’s faster and it has it’s own rancid flavour. We wanted to create something that shows that we’re not just another old school death metal band…we’ve gone beyond proving that an created a modern death metal record for true fans of the EXTREME!”

Celestial Sanctuary have packed a lot into their relatively short lifespan. Forming in 2019, and releasing their debut album in 2021, they quickly established themselves as a dominant force in the UK Death Metal scene. The success of their debut saw them playing shows with legends Obituary and Cattle Decapitation, and OSDM bands from the US, Gatecreeper and Undeath. I’ve not had the pleasure of catching them live yet, but the reviews of their shows paint an impressive picture of a band full of energetic and passionate performances. This, coupled with a solid debut and the backing of Church Road Records (the UK label run by Employed to Serve band members Sammy Urwin & Justine Jones), generated a lot of buzz and fuelled the anticipation for their new album. They had to deliver an album that matched the hype, and they’ve certainly done that with ‘An Insatiable Thirst for Torment’.

Opening track ‘Trapped Within the Rank Membrane’ starts with what I’d consider the archetypal Death Metal intro. Starting with just the guitar and a riff that slides around, with the rest of the instruments coming in after one bar, building to a tapped lead and short solo. The drums pounding along to a fill, before everything stops and it’s back to the guitar to introduce the main riff by itself. We then get the first taste of Cronin’s snarling vocals, which sound cavernous and dynamic. Once instruments and vocals are all in play, the impressive production really shines through. The mix is well-balanced, with the drums sounding punchy and clear, the bass cutting through nicely and the guitar tone giving sufficient weight to the riffs. And boy, are there some riffs! We are treated to a seemingly endless string of dangerously heavy and well constructed Death Metal riffing, with the first track coming in at over 6 minutes, leaving you feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut.

The battering continues with second track ‘Glutted with Chunder’ (contender for Death Metal song title of the year!), which is as heavy as the opener, but takes on a more groovy feel as it develops. There are half-time grooves all over this track, intertwined with tight blast beats and a slight hardcore feel to the riffs, all of which combine to create a sound that will be familiar to fans of contemporary Death Metal. There is enough in the first two tracks to demonstrate what the band are about. Their influences are clearly rooted in “classic” Death Metal, with bands like Cannibal Corpse and Bolt Thrower instantly springing to mind. What makes them stand out, is they have taken those roots, developed them and produced something that sounds fresh and new, while paying homage to the legends of the genre.

The rest of the album continues as it started, with a few little twists thrown in along the way to keep things interesting. Fourth track ‘Meandering Stream of Foul Fluid’ generates some atmosphere, with a more ambient guitar tone creating a haunting lead over the chugging power chords. Sixth track ‘The Lurid Glow of a Dead, Burning Body’ opens with a long intro, containing a lead that has a slightly Egyptian feel to it (a nod to Nile, perhaps?), before launching into a thrashy Death Metal riff that is one of my favourites on the album.

The pacing and song structures are also worth mentioning. It seems like a lot of consideration has been given to the order of the tracks, as they seem to run together so well, with fast and slow sections coming at just the right moments. The dynamic between blast beats and slower, half-time grooves or even just simple and effective ‘4 to the floor’ beats works really well, in fact the drums are really a highlight, with drummer James Burke’s performance really shining through.

The band have put together an album that is a massive progression from their debut, and is a standout in a year jam-packed with high quality Death Metal releases. Their position as flag-bearers in the New Wave of British Death Metal is firmly cemented, with their latest release sure to grow their fanbase and appeal to a wide audience, that includes not just Death Metal fans, but fans of metal in general.

Rating: 10/10

Release Date: August 25th 2023

Released By: Church Road Records

FFO: Cannibal Corpse, Bolt Thrower, Undeath

Track Listing

1) Trapped Within The Rank Membrane
2) Glutted With Chunder
3) Swivel Eyed and Gurning in the Shadows
4) Meandering Stream of Foul Fluid
5) Biomineralization (Cell Death)
6) The Lurid Glow of a Dead, Burning Body
7) Unquenchable Thirst...
8) Gutted with a Blunt Blade

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