At last we have KK's Priest's second and long awaited album.
Album Review: SARMAT - Determined To Strike
New York’s technical death metal act SARMAT released their debut album, Determined to Strike, on I, Voidhanger Records. A broad and diverse album, SARMAT have taken their musical knowledge and taste, and figured out how to mix it into a prolific and wide-ranging album that puts them in the upper lexicon of fellow avant-garde acts like Portal and Imperial Triumphant (who’s bassist plays on the album). With Determined to Strike, the band has released one of the most progressive and diverse albums of 2023.
Opening the album is “Formed From Filth.” Starting off with a opening guitar tapping section and drums giving off an almost uneasy feeling as you listen. When Andrew Gonzalez’s vocals kick in, the riff gives off into a mathcore style sounding riff. You begin to hear the jazz fusion influence on the song and the album as a whole. With constant tempo changes, start/stop rhythm sections and an overall feel of the song and album. The guitar playing of Cotter Champlain pops and shows such range on the track. With a nice mixture of electric guitar and an acoustic passage with an almost jazz and flamenco style guitar playing with the matching drums of James Jones is such an audio pleasure. Giving off a feel and style similar to Animals as Leaders. Gonzalez’s deep gutturals on the breakdown matching with the high screaming adds dynamics and frantic pacing of the drums and guitars.
“Landform” continues the manic pacing and genre hopping the band delivers beautifully on the album. With an opening piano piece, giving off a feeling of anxiousness and eeriness, before the opening scream kicks in the door with pummeling double bass. The combination of blast beats, over clean atmospheric and reverbed covered guitars at the quarter mark, is very progressive and shows the bands music theory, and unique song structure. There is a muddy, gritty and sludgy bass riff and tone on the song, before wailing vocals and the chaotic pacing of the guitars shock the listener when they show up. The song ends with a great up-tempo riff and drumming section near the end with a start/stop & speed up, slow down section pacing, not knowing if the song will end on this note or two more movements.
My favorite track off the album is “Arsenal of Tyranny.” The song opens with a slowed-down, chugging breakdown riff that sounds so heavy, giving off an almost deathcore vibe to the riff before the blast beats kick in. The track gives off a sludgy death metal tone to the track when the vocals show up. Champlain’s guitar solo at the quarter mark is almost a clinic on jazz guitar solos, with a slowed down/speed up pacing in sweep like playing and knowing when to hit notes and when to let the notes hang to add to the mood of the track. With a driving rhythm section and a fuzz-laden distorted bass section behind the solo, it adds the moodiness of the song and lets the solo shine, but also builds to the next section. Random brass sections after the solo adds a unique instrumentation, almost like musician John Zorn and his brass section started improvising behind the band. Adding more eclectic range and forceful punctuation in the music until the vocals kick back in at the halfway mark. With a brass section solo sounding schizophrenic, with the band building behind it making the listener wonder where they are going with this musically? With the band wrapping the song up in a frantic rush to correspond with the brass section. With pounding double bass, ringing guitars and guttural vocals, the song ends with a punch, leaving the listener exhausted after surviving such an audio avant-garde journey.
Another standout track is “Determined To Strike (Dead Hand Cycle Part 1)”. Another mathcore, progressive opening guitar piece that sounds similar to early The Locust. With intricate guitar playing and blasting drums over the slowed down guitars, almost a more stripped down feel to the song in the sound and the mix. The brass comes back at the quarter mark with almost random punching, stabbing like notes in between the guitar playing. Building into a huge crescendo section of brass and blasting drums. Pacing picks up even more, that includes a slam death metal sounding riff in a short burst, then forming into a melodic death metal riff. Showcasing the band’s genre hopping and unique musical knowledge, showing how to use it to their unique sound. Drums get highlighted with the brass section at the halfway mark with light bass. Letting the atmosphere build on the song, before coming back blasting and driving, matching the blaring horns at the end of the song. The album wraps up with “Disturbing Advances.” Starting with a jazz/big band style opening with start/stop building and descending sections before continuing the band's jazz fusion technical death metal style, closing out this manic and frantic audio journey of the band’s debut.
SARMAT have released a great record. A diverse and unique record. Their avant-garde fusion of jazz and death metal have created a unique sonic landscape that makes the sound their own. A standout release for the band and pushing the boundaries of death metal and progressive metal as well. If this is just the start, I'll be curious to see where they go on the follow up.
SCORE: 9.5 / 10
- Formed From Filth (4:14)
- Landform (5:11)
- Arsenal of Tyranny (6:17)
- Enervated (4:43)
- Determined To Strike (Dead Hand Cycle Part 1) (5:59)
- Disturbing Advances (8:38)
FFO: Portal, Ulcerate, Mitochondrion