Sicarius - Serenade of Slitting Throats - (8/10)
Published on October 28, 2017
Sicarius are a relatively new black metal band from the Inland Empire. Their sound harkens back to the old days when black metal was evil, blasphemous, dangerous and high-velocity. Even their name screams danger as Sicarius means contract killer or assassin in Latin. Featuring guest vocal appearances from Dave Barrett (Voices of Ruin) and Andrew Knudsen (Empyrean Throne), Serenade of Slitting Throats is Sicarius’ debut full-length and it promises to be full of old school, blasting evil fury.
As you might expect, much of the riffing on this album is the fast and furious tremolo picking for which the genre is known. Argyris and Merihim execute the standard tremolo picked riffs with ease but that is far from the extent of their talents. They often weave melodies into the tremolo picked riffs but more importantly, they can and do bring the heavy, head-banging riffs in most of the songs on this album. The transitions between the tremolo picked riffs and the hard and heavy riffs are pretty smooth and everything flows well. “The Onyx Void” even features a haunting guitar melody by itself at one point and a somewhat atmospheric one around the 4:15 mark. A fair amount of the rhythms on this album are actually reminiscent of first album Abigail Williams (in a good way) as Sicarius have definitely infused a very modern edge into their old-school sound. It works well for Sicarius though as they strike a pretty convincing balance between old and new. Also, the riffs in “Wampyr” are the best and the heaviest of the entire album, especially the faster riffs.
Most of Brandon’s drumming is pretty standard fare for black metal. He executes all of it rather well but the unrelenting blast beats, the lightning fast playing speed, and the non-stop triggered double kick drumming are all staples of black metal drumming. We have heard all of it a million times before and it is nothing new or original. His fills are pretty solid though and he mixes in some nice rim hits every so often to keep things fresh. The best part is that he uses the double-kick like a thrash drummer would more often than not. The relentless double-kick does come in but it usually only lasts briefly before shifting to something different. The middle of “Torture Trials” also features some great alternating cymbal rhythms, which is very refreshing to hear in black metal.
Kurt Karcass’ vocals are very much in the vein of old school bands like Gorgoroth but whether intentional or not, the most accurate comparison is to Ken Sorceron on the first AW album. Obviously there are differences between them but the style is eerily similar with the high, raspy, reverb-infused vocals being the dominant force on this album. This is most noticeable on “The Onyx Void,” which is also arguably the best song on the album. You cannot really understand what Kurt’s saying but perhaps that is for the best given Sicarius’ lyrical themes. He does show a bit of range on “Serpent Soul” going a touch lower and maybe a tad higher but that is the extent of it. Perhaps he will experiment with it more over the years. The guest vocal appearances are solid but somewhat indistinguishable from Kurt’s vocals, which may be because the guest vocals are not track specific. Regardless, the guest spots show the vibrancy and inter-connectedness of the underground metal scene in and around Orange County.
At the end of the day, this is a very solid start for Sicarius. It has a specific approach in mind and runs with it for the duration of the album. There is not a ton of creativity here but the band do enough to keep the listener interested and banging their head throughout so creativity was not all that necessary. Would it help? You bet it would. Should Sicarius be faulted for not being more creative on a debut? Not a bit. They were clearly trying to establish themselves with a tried and true sound. They put a bit of their own spin on it but the tried and true sound works very well for them. Sicarius are definitely a band to keep tabs on though as it will be interesting to see how they age as a band.