Sacral Rage - Beyond Celestial Echoes - (9/10)
Published on December 10, 2018
What’s the Rush?
Why in the hell is Rush on Metal Archives? Have you ever wondered that? I’ve had discussions with fellow metalheads and I’ve heard the arguments for both sides. Some say that Rush have written unabashed metal songs, and other say that, while they have been influential to the metal scene, they’ve never written an album full of metal, which should disqualify them from being included on an encyclopedia for metal bands. I fall in with the latter group—I think Rush was influential (and obviously a fantabulous, world-beating band) but not a metal band. Why am I going on and on about Rush? Because Sacral Rage’s new album has a metric fuckton of Rush influence, AND I LOVE IT.
Since their 2015 debut album, fans of the more extravagant corners of heavy metal have been waiting with baited breath for more material from these Greeks. Their Helstar meets Watchtower style of USPM/speed metal was an instant hit, and their debut, Illusions in the Infinite Void is an unabashed modern classic. So what did Sacral Rage decide to follow that monster up with? Well, though they’re definitely recognizable as the same band, they have upped the influence from tech-thrash, prog metal, and (as mentioned) Rush, to create an album that at the very least equals all the hopes that everyone had for this album.
The album starts off with the excellent, synthy opener “Progenitor,” which immediately calls to mind the holy triumvirate with its washes of electronic, outer-spacy noises. This intro gives way to “Eternal Solstice,” the first proper track on the album, which starts this thing out on an interstellar bang. Right off the bat, we’re treated to some extremely over-the-top theatrical vocals from Dimitris K. For those who don’t like banshee screaming, this may be a bit of an adjustment, because this man is all over the map on this album, from ear-piercing falsettos, to mid-range growls, to more traditional heavy metal singing. It all sounds a bit unorganized at first, but once you’ve made your way into this album’s atmosphere, it is hard to imagine the album without these vocals. And on “Eternal Solstice,” like every other track, we’re treated to every maniacal vocalization Dimitris can come up with. We also begin to get a taste for the absurd guitar wizardry that is present throughout the album, the most striking of which is near the end of the song, where the guitar solo warps into a riff—that turns out to just be the guitar solo but lower and palm muted. It’s a truly breathtaking piece of guitar work.
We get a little taste for the importance of the bass and drums on the first track, but “Vaguely Decoded” really brings us into contact with what a monstrous rhythm section Sacral Rage possesses. The song begins sounding a lot like Cygnus Book I, with the bass noodling around on a riff while the drums work their way in, matching the bass tit for tat. And the drums and bass stay tightly intertwined throughout the song, and indeed through the rest of the album—they might as well be running a three-legged race they are so in step. The bass tone is aggressive and in your face and placed such in the mix that you can always hear it, no matter what is going on. “Vaguely…” also features a beautiful bass solo—how often do we get those?! Vagelis F.’s drumming is tightly controlled, aggressive, and staggering in its intricacies. He never takes a second to breathe, infusing his drumming with little flourishes regardless of song. In addition to being individually impressive, he balances this with also enhancing every riff and solo throughout the whole album. He. Does. Not. Fuck. Around.
Throughout the album, one notices that there is much more of a thrash feel on this album than their first one. But thrashphobics (like myself) need not worry. They incorporate this influence in a way that melds very naturally with their heavy, speed, USPM, and proggy ambitions so that the album never quite feels like a thrash album, even though one could argue it is. A good point of reference would be Agent Steel, who undoubtedly is indebted in some way to thrash metal, but still comes off as a heavy/speed/power band predominantly.
There isn’t one week track here, and “Suspended Privileges” and “Samsara (L.C.E.)” keep up the excellence throughout the middle of the album. “Suspended” is one of the most straightforward speed/thrash numbers on the album, while still featuring some ear-harassing theatric vocals to die for. Of course, the guitars, which surprisingly I haven’t covered much up to this point, are excellent. The chorus really shows off how well the guitars work with everything else, when they move from chunky thrash/speed riffing to more melodic, textural work to highlight the excellent vocal melodies. There is also a beautiful break featuring some clean work, which will feature a little more heavily later in the album. It should be noted that the guitar solos on this album are to die for. Every song features excellent soloing, but my favorite may be on the album-favorite “Necropia.” This song, for me, is the highlight of the album in an album full of highlights. The riffing throughout is absurd, the chorus is catchy as hell, and perhaps the most breathtaking moment of the album occurs during this song. During the guitar solo, the rest of the band moves through the verse, pre-chorus, and chorus, all while an astonishing solo is taking place. It’s seriously awe-inspiring stuff.
Now, back to the Rush. One can hear the Rush influence throughout in the keys, the intros, the aggressive bass tone. But it’s on the last track, “The Glass,” when Sacral Rage prove themselves true disciples. Before this track though, is the amazing interlude “Onward to Nucleus,” Which shows that interludes do not always have to be throwaways. It evokes the feeling one might have when aimlessly drifting through the blackness of space before coming upon an abandoned and decrepit spacecraft, or a planet that has not yet been explored. Eerie stuff. Now onto “The Glass.” The intro could easily fit in on an album between A Farewell to Kinds and Hemispheres. There’s also an interlude that sounds a hell of allot like “Cygnus: Book one.” Sacral Rage also lift the chromatic riff from Natural Silence just before the 5-minute mark. After the interlude we’re treated to a brief theatric vocal before things become eerily similar to Steven Wilson a la Hand. Cannot. Erase. Later in the song there are sections that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Voivod album. The whole song is really a tour de force of prog history, punctuated with furious bursts of speed metal.
The bottom line is that you should be listening to this album. It lives up to every expectation set by the excellent debut and may go down as a modern classic as well. Sacral Rage have managed to incorporate a ton of new and expanded influences into their music while continuing to sound like no one but themselves. Beyond Celestial Echoes is one of the most unique, masterful, and just overall best albums of the year.
Aaron’s Accuscore: 9.2