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Sarcasm – Stellar Stream Obscured Award winner

Stellar Stream Obscured
by Oli Gonzalez at 06 February 2022, 9:39 AM

Sarcasm. Noun. The use of irony to mock or convey contempt. Or in today’s case, SARCASM are a hard hitting melodic death metal band residing in what many consider to be the birthplace for the subgenre; Gothenburg, Sweden. The band originally formed way back in 1987 with a sound heavily centered around death metal. The band split in the mid-90s before making a full come back nearly 20 years after splitting, in 2015. After venturing down the more aesthetic and more melodic route, it’ll be interesting to see how these sub genres blend in “Stellar Stream Obscured”, their 4th full length album.

“Through The Crystal Portal” opens up the album. I’m immediately drawn to the guitar skills on display from Anders and Peter. Both the tone and overall feel is very similar to that of EXODUS. Bright and clear, yet unsettling. It’s impressive how they can craft a heavy tone with careful selection of the notes and scales rather than just cranking up the distortion and drop tuning several steps, as many modern artists seem to. I would say that the vocals whilst clear and heavy do need to be higher in the mix at this stage. A fair start to the album.

Similar to the previous song, the guitars are definitely the center piece to “We Only Saw The Shadows Of Life”. Both guitarists must have spent countless hours practicing to pull of the riffs that would leave many of us in an angry, disappointed mess if we attempted to play them. Yet both men are still able to retain this level of technicality without sacrificing tone and emotion. There’s times when all instruments lock in for some tasty death metal inspired grooves though. Nothing pretty or atmospheric. Just straight up head banging !

“Hmm this song is 8 minutes long, it must be doom metal” I thought as the next track “Ancient Visitors” was about to commence. I was right. I’m biased as a ‘doom head’, but this for me really is the stand out song for the album! I honestly wasn’t expecting this, but it’s a delightful addition. The opening cathedral organ piece sent shivers down my spine. Slow bludgeoning riffs and heavier guttural vocals feature prominently in what is a much slower assault on the ear drums. I love it! Objectively speaking, I do wonder if this is slightly out of place on a melodic death metal album. On the other hand, this keeps you guessing whilst maintaining some of the band’s identity.

‘Normality’ is resumed with “The Spinning Tomb”. Whatever normality is. In this case, the same melodic death metal intensity we’ve become accustomed too with SARCASM. The guitars are once again the most salient feature, this time with some much more complex harmonies. Also, the song opens with a very interesting air raid siren sound bite. The sound would have sent shivers down the spines of our grandparents, as it would have served as a warning to take cover from incoming air raids. Here, it has a similar haunting and fear inducing effect.

The opening piano and strings riff for “Obsidian Eyes” is somber, dark yet beautiful! I’m becoming really impressed with the band’s careful selection of soundbites like this. The rest of the song has a similar dark mourning atmosphere to it also. There’s some impressive black metal style tremolo guitar riffage too. There’s plenty of tempo changes too, whether it’s straight up blast beats, or the slower clean guitar solo played over a cleaner arpeggio in the middle of the song!

The band were described as having a death metal inspired style in their early incarnation. There’s definitely elements of this in “Powers Of Suffering That Be”, especially when all instruments lock in for that gloriously heavy distorted grooves in the early sections! I’m finding myself drawn to the lyrics more. I’m wondering if this is politically inspired. The fact that I’m asking these questions demonstrates how invested I am in the band’s work! This is a similar case for “Apocalyptic Serenity” where I’m curious about the source of the lyrics. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but the vocals reminded me of someone. Then it hit me! Those growls whilst heavy still allow the lyrics to be heard and for the story to be heard is very similar to that of AGGALOCH.

“Let Us Descend” encapsulates everything I’m beginning to love about the band; somber instrumental openings , solid death metal inspired grooves and soaring atmospheric guitar leads. It’s the full package and a good finish to the album. Then, to my dismay, the album’s over! Musically, it’s hard to really fault any of them as all musicians compliment one another beautifully. There’s so many different textures and sounds to keep you interested whilst still maintaining a unique identity and avoiding becoming a mish-mash of ideas. Production wise, again, it’s hard to really find fault although I think the vocals could perhaps be louder, especially in the earlier songs.

Overall though, SARCASM have truly created their own unique sound and placed their own stamp on the genre. Music is all about emotion. This album preys on human emotion, whether it’s sorrow, mourning, melancholy, or simply awe! This isn’t quite in my face as other albums and whilst it has made a strong first impression on me, this will be a slow burner and I’ll grow to become more and more fond of it as time progresses.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Through The Crystal Portal
2. We Only Saw The Shadows Of Life
3. Ancient Visitors
4. The Spinning Tomb
5. Obsidian Eyes
6. Powers Of Suffering That Be
7. Apocalyptic Serenity
8. Let Us Descend
Alvaro Svanerö - Drums
Jonas Söder - Bass
Peter Laitinen - Guitars
Anders Eriksson - Guitars
Heval Bozarslan - Vocals
Record Label: Hammerheart Records


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