Monday, August 19, 2013

Sargeist - Tyranny Returns (2001)

Sargeist first came to my attention with their debut full-length, Satanic Black Devotion. I was very glad to find a band that was still being faithful to this style of Black Metal, while also actually possessing talent and creating exceptionally good music. It was only several months after the release of the band's second album that I sought out their earlier material. Thankfully, Tyranny Returns had just been reissued on CD not long before then. Originally released in 2001, this demo shows a very rough version of what Sargeist would become.

Speaking of rough, the production is very low-quality, though not in a way that would make your ears bleed. After the over-produced Sudentaival, from Horna, Shatraug's subsequent efforts seemed to get more raw and to go in the opposite direction. That is certainly the case, here. While sounding very necro and hellish, the guitar tone is softened by the hissing and almost comes across as soft. One can still follow what is going on, despite the distortion, but the drums often fade into the background. At times, the bass seems to drown out the guitar, which is certainly detrimental to the overall sound. The vocals are a little low, though this is for the best as Shatraug's voice is not always the best.

There are not a lot of surprises, regarding the songwriting. Anyone familiar with Satanic Black Devotion or Disciple of the Heinous Path would not have a hard time guessing what most of this sounds like, being demo material that was written around the same time. However, "Night of Sacred Wisdom" is likely to shock most listeners and stands out from the rest of the songs. From the keyboards to the goth-inspired clean vocals, this might be enough to have some people double-checking to make sure the right CD is playing. Other tracks, such as "Anti-Human Black Metal Wrath" and "Dark Fortress" show a band that is still searching for its own voice, coming off as rather generic when compared to their later efforts. There is a lot of Darkthrone influence in the songwriting, especially noticeable on "The Impaler Prince", which immediately calls to mind "Over Fjell og Gjennom Torner" from Transilvanian Hunger. In fact, it sounds like outright plagiarism, at times. Nonetheless, this is probably the best song on the demo. Similarly, "Iron, Blood & Blasphemy" sounds like a mix between "Born for Burning" by Bathory and "In Holocaust to the Natural Darkness" by Vlad Tepes. Still, being an early demo of a new project, it is only normal that Shatraug was toying with various influences, in his search for the appropriate voice that would enable him to express that which he wished to, without necessarily sounding just like his primary band. "Sinister Glow of the Funeral Torches" sounds a bit different from the later version, due to the washed-out production and the addition of synth. Thankfully, this element was dropped prior to the first album.

Tyranny Returns is an interesting look at the earliest stages of Sargeist's existence. It is certainly not essential, but may prove worth a listen for fans of the band. Whether or not it is more of a curiosity thing or if it warrants repeated listens depends on your taste. There is very little here that foreshadows the brilliance of their later offerings and even the best song on this demo is a total rip-off of Darkthrone. Regardless, if you are not seeking something all that great and just want to hear some gritty Black Metal, this may satisfy you. Just do not expect the same quality as found on Satanic Black Devotion.