Sarpa – Solivagus (2020)

Whomever is responsible for this recording sent me a handwritten note on old parchment with a sigil at the bottom of it. No worries sir, there’s no need to utilize magick in order to get me to fall in love with this record, because as far as the music is concerned, I already have. If you’d like me to be honest, I was a bit shocked at how good this record was and Sarpa could definitely make a name for themselves with it. I mean himself, as the artist (David Baxter) was responsible for everything. After a short but heavy intro, the album begins.

“Triad Of Might” comes in at ten minutes of play time, which showcases the incredibly awesome structural power in this band. Going well above standard atmospheres, there’s an mind-boggling prog jam sandwiched right in the middle of this thing. My only problem would be the opening scowls as they’re just a bit too Gollum and don’t really have the bite that they should. However, Baxter’s growls are thick and cavernous which I absolutely love. There are parts of this song that just get me into the groove. Maybe not the clean layers over the growls (I can honestly barely hear those cleans) but for the most part, it’s a real crusher and I can’t mention this enough. I was not expecting such a well-crafted piece in the ten minutes time that he delivered. I’m actually reminded of Opeth when they were still death metal.

Okay, so “Predacious Dimensions” actually features a much harsher bite on those scowls, so this was just a track issue (which happens.) Sometimes you sound like garbage on one track and then on another you slaughter. It all depends on the piece. The tribal drums on the record also meld well with the thrash, black and death metal excursions which all work together to create an impressive piece. There seems to be a bunch of angry tribesmen in the background as well, which fade out into some kind of static fuzz. I’m reminded of the game Prey (2006) which is now abandonware so you can download it and see if you get the same feeling. “Evansce” makes great use of whisper, though also has a moment that reminds me a little bit of Super Metroid, particularly the second half of Maridia. There’s a slightly rockin’ part in the middle which demonstrates just how eager Sarpa is to twist our expectations (though I’m having a bit of trouble hearing that solo over the bass which could be on my end, these aren’t exactly studio headphones, but they’re pretty damn good) as the cut returns back to what I’m calling the “Super Metroid” part. Still works for me though.

“Anguishing Reveries” throws us back to death/thrash as it rolls into blistering brutal black/death, I almost want to say war metal in areas. However, that is beefed by Sarpa’s incredible use of progressive melodies. The album can easily go from thundering behemoth to hypnotic trance and that is just amazing. To switch moods like that at the drop of a hat is extremely impressive and I think I’ve already mentioned that. The title track is an instrumental which begins out quite heavy, then rolls into an acoustic piece intertwined with a blazing guitar solo – now this one, I can actually hear and my ears are quite pleased with it.

There’s just one more piece here though and it’s nearly as long as the opener, so there’s quite a bit at work here. The track is mostly thunderous, though it also welcomes some subtle synth nodes and a few points of melody and atmosphere. That being said, there’s still a bit of bite to this one, even with the trippy soundscapes that comprise it. Ultimately, I’m impressed.

There’s no question in my mind that Sarpa created the kind of record that I found to suit my senses. This mixture of black, death, thrash metal, prog, doom and overall hypnotism doesn’t sound very far off from the kind of music that Bill and I make with Torii. However, Sarpa is a bit less bleak than us and far more ravenous. There are parts of Solivagus that will literally assault your earlobes, making for an experience that isn’t just contemplative, but abhorrently heavy. It’s great.



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