Last year was simply overflowing with fantastic records, and now that it’s 2018, the hunt begins for the first great album of the new year! Have I found it in Sinistro’s Sangue Cassia? Hailing from Portugal, this five-piece ambient/doom band have released a handful of records to critical acclaim. With Season of Mist behind their latest, out January 5, the band have turned out a collection of eight songs in their signature style. Let’s dive into some of them and see if Sinistro has had another quality output.
Opening the album is the eleven-minute “Cosmos Controle”, with which Sinistro set the tone of what’s to follow. The doom is alive and well, but there is a level of ambiance layered in that sets the track apart from the pack. The guitars aren’t overly crunchy and everything is washed in a glossy reverb. I was worried that these choices might take the edge off of their sound; however, there are little crackles and hisses just under the surface that not only balance the sound, but also create an uneasiness that’s quite fitting. Pair this with Patricia Andrade’s haunting vocals and the atmosphere is complete. It’s eerie and beautiful.
The next track of interest is the more concise “Pételas”, which is just under four minutes in length, and proves that Sinistro can write a captivating melody without sacrificing atmospheric depth. It also shows that the group understands that a song’s length shouldn’t be artificially inflated to follow a trend and/or meet arbitrary expectations. The four-minute length of this song is perfect, and provides a nice breather between some of the deeper and longer cuts on Sangue Cassia.
One of the standout pieces on this record is “Nuvem”, which takes a more minimalist approach to the formula the band has toyed with throughout the previous songs. The production is absolutely perfect on this cut, and it often reminded me of something that I would hear from The xx, albeit with a more cathartic conclusion. It’s a dynamic composition, but not so aggressive as to destroy the delicacy of the song. Walking this tightrope is difficult, but Sinistro pull it off with panache.
By the time that we get to the final track, “Cravo Carne”, Sangue Cassia has taken us on quite the ride, and the closing song has the literal and figurative final word on the album. With a swelling and crushing opening riff, we are reminded that this is a band that owes a lot to doom metal. Vocals harmonize over instrumentation that easily flows from powerful, distorted guitar-led passages to an atmospheric section that lets the space between the notes shine. It’s dramatic, and definitely one of the most powerful songs I’ve heard in some time. In other words: it’s a proper way to close the album.
Simply put, Sinistro have improved in every aspect of their skills as a band. The instrumentation is thought out, the vocal performance is lovely, and the compositions are second-to-none. At the start of the review, I wondered if I had found the first great record of 2018. In short, I have. I’m pretty sure in twelve months we’ll see Sangue Cassia again.
Notable Tracks: “Pételas”; “Abismo”: “Cravo Carne”
FFO: Amenra , Hanging Garden, Vallenfrye