Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sargeist - Feeding the Crawling Shadows (2014)

Based purely on arrangement and composition, Let the Devil In may have been Sargeist's best put-together effort. Yet after repeated listens, it became more and more clear that the atmosphere just lacked the darkness and evil feeling of the band's earlier works. In fact, several of the melodies were uncharacteristically upbeat and inappropriate. With this in mind, some were reasonably cautious of the latest Sargeist release, Feeding the Crawling Shadows, offered up in March 2014.

The first thing one is likely to notice when listening to this album is the atrocious production job, which may have been a conscious rejection of the cleaner sound of the previous outing. Somewhat similar to the most recent Horna record, Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa, the sound here is overly harsh and a little difficult to get used to. The thing is, it is not at all necro or raw in a genuine sense; rather, this is the result of recording in a professional studio and then mixing it to try to get a rough sound. Shatraug is known for writing brilliant guitar melodies and they are all a little harder to focus on, by comparison with Satanic Black Devotion or Disciple of the Heinous Path, due to the odd mix. However, after a couple songs, your ears may very well get used to this in some manner.

As for the music itself, it fails to make as much of an immediate impression as the first two records, most likely as a result of the production. The songwriting is fairly consistent, and clearly identifiable as the work of Shatraug. His trademark style is all over this, quite thankfully. He has a decent amount of longevity in the Black Metal scene and is one of the few people that has done well to keep the black flame burning for all of those years. The title track was a poor choice to start things out, however, and might be worth skipping. "In Charnel Dreams" would have been a much more fitting opener, really embodying the Sargeist. The vocals are a bit of a low spot, at times,  with more frequent use of deeper vocals that do not suit the music as well as Torog's typical style. The epic and mournful riffs would benefit more from the higher-pitched and raspier approach. The music features a good amount of fast tremolo riffs, mixed with the mid-paced stuff that any fan of Horna or Sargeist should be more than familiar with. This variation in composition makes the material a bit more memorable than the latest Horna album, which took repeated listens to really soak in. While this improves upon the missteps of the last record, it could have used a few more of the dreary and bleak melodies such as the ones found in "The Shunned Angel", which hearken back to the band's glory days (ironically, the time when few knew about them). Not every riff on here is as dark as it should be, so the stench of Let the Devil In is not completely gone, but those passages seem more rare this time around.

Feeding the Crawling Shadows seems to be a bit of a retreat from the somewhat accessible sound of Let the Devil In, with the less overtly melodic approach, the more lo-fi production and the lack of so many warm and optimistic riffs. While some may complain, my impression is that this album is a bit more true to the spirit of Sargeist and, while not of the same quality as Satanic Black Devotion or Disciple of the Heinous Path, it is an improvement over the previous recording and a step back in the right direction. This one gets better as it goes along and will impress more with repeated spins. If you were put off by the last release, give this a chance as it may be more of what you were hoping to hear from Sargeist. In particular, "In Charnel Dreams", "The Shunned Angel" and "Inside the Demon's Maze" are worth the time of anyone into Finnish Black Metal. Hopefully, this gets the band back on track and, by the next album, they will have returned to an even darker sound.