Sarcoptes – Songs and Dances of Death (2016)

Having named themselves after mites, these Californian black metallers certainly have some fight in them. It’s a bit unfair to call this style just plain old black metal however, and we see once again where the Metal Archives genre-tagging process could use a little work. The band have been around since 2013, to which they released a demo simply entitled Thanatos. Three years later, we have their first full-length embodiment in Songs Of Dances and Death which I can describe on many facets. As a matter of fact, what appears to have a quite simplistic cover is actually a very textured and intriguing product the whole way through.

“The Veil Of Dissolution” sounds like a mixture of twisted black metal, thrash and Gothic choirs that remind me as much of Emperor and Mayhem as early Graveworm. Following that, we have the continuing efforts of Sean Zimmerman’s guitar licks, bass lines and keyboard orchestrations as drummer Garret Garvey (Jack Ketch, ex-Gary Busey Amber Alert – WTF?) also performs all of the vocals for this album. His performance on the kit is just as memorable as his performance on the mic, which features memorable scowls (that you can actually understand) that I’d consider right up there with some of my personal favorite black metal vocalists. “The Fall Of Constantinople” has some rather eerie keyboard leads in sections aside from it’s thrashing assault, which make for a track that not only charges with a fervor, but delights in Gothic atmospheres that seem fitting for the subject matter. We hear the same things creep up during “When The Stars Hide Their Fires” as it continues to pound with an insatiable fury. The final two cuts on the record are “Barbarossa” and “Within The Labyrinth Mind” which both feature more of the same, though at this point, we’re certainly not tired of it. Perhaps the airy keyboards are graining on you a bit by now (they do become redundant after a while) but when other samples are used, these pieces can become quite invigorating. As far as the tremolos and drum blasts are concerned, these seldom change pace, but the band obviously are interested in producing a symphonic style of black metal that has an obvious Gothic tinge to it. There’s an unexpected section in spots of the album’s closer “Within The Labyrinth Mind” that actually features real choir samples and truly shows how memorable these guys would be if they could find a literal choir to take the place of the keyboard sample they’ve used to death on this one.

In the end, I’m quite satisfied with the performance uttered forth here, but I still feel that it needs some work and I would love to see how this act evolves in the future. As much as I love what they’ve attempted here, I would love to see it pushed forward to levels of grandiosity unlike never before seen, bigger, bolder and even louder. I know there are those of you who think this might sound better without all the keyboard synths, but let’s give these guys a chance as I think that something very promising is about to bud forth from this project and I’d like to see it reach fruition. These gentlemen are certainly skilled and I seem to enjoy the performance a bit more with every listen, so I’d definitely consider giving this one an ear.

(6 Tracks, 42:00)

8/10

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