First Impressions: Sacramentum – Far Away From The Sun
Check out this poser checking out some classic BM.
Yes folks, it is time for another installment of the feature where we put our metal cred at risk by openly admitting that we’ve never listened to some of the genre’s most beloved classics. So far, we’ve seen head honcho Lacertilian be thoroughly underwhelmed by Type-0’s Bloody Kisses. Much to the chagrin of some of you, lizards and teenage girls turned out to have less in common than we might have thought. Will Sacramentum fare any better and be able to stir some emotions in this here jaded Kraut?
First off, let me point out that this album wasn’t exactly my first choice. I had in fact never heard of it until the aforementioned lizard suggested it to me. He pointed it out as a good alternative to my original idea of doing this feature on a Dissection album, a band I’d always avoided for some reason or other. My dear colleagues were quick to inform me that this was not a great choice. Before embarrassing myself further, I did some quick research and concluded that my fallback, Emperor, was probably off the table, as well. The fact that I knew next to nothing about two of the bands you’ll find on every list of Top 10 Black Metal Acts should tell you a little something about the level of expertise at work here. There’s a reason I hesitate to call myself a metalhead. To be fair though, a large part of that reason is that I can’t help the impression that many people doing so are kind of huge dorks. You know, the kind of dork that drunkenly yells “Slayeeeer!” unironically. Also the kind of dork that commits arson and murder out of some ill-conceived belief that he is somehow improving the world. Valid reasons to somewhat dissociate oneself abound.
Luckily, for all I could find out, Sacramentum offers a welcome option to cover musical ground similar to the bands above without hour-long discussions about separating the art from the artist. Before I begin this trip though, let’s have a look at what our esteemed panel has to say about the album.
For years I shied away from frost-inspired Melodic Black Metal (Blue Metal, if you will), mainly because my first foray into the genre with In the Nightside Eclipse was a very overwhelming one. But time would prove my instincts wrong, and Sacramentum’s Far Away from the Sun is one of the top albums in this mystifying genre (if not the toppest). Everything in this album, from the wall-of-sound yet discernible guitars and bass to the almost campily reverbed vocals and drums, serves to elevate the beautifully dark melodies to truly enveloping and sinister heights.
As mentioned above, after noticing some of the group had hit a bit of a wall discussing whether or not Hans should do a feature on Dissection, I looked for the easy solution and that was to suggest he check out an equally awesome (and short lived) band in Sacramentum. Since first giving them a shot courtesy Masterdork’s essential Combating Christmas Series way back around the site’s inception, their deftly crafted songs have woven their way into my mind, setting a benchmark along the way for both frost-coated melodies and squall-driven harmonies. An amazing debut album, and a definite must-hear record of the genre.
0:00 – Nevermind tech death – this was the 90s, when purple was the colour of black metal, of all genres. Why was that okay but pink isn’t? And which architect signed off on this impractically hard to reach castle built in a downright perilous place? Not that it isn’t pretty, mind you. I like the level of detail, all the more so since I’ll be looking at this for the next 45 minutes or so.
0:02 – I appreciate that they get straight to the point without some long-winded intro desperately trying to build atmosphere. Had this started out with sounds of rain, storm, or any other kind of weather, I’d already be off on my first smoke break.
0:36 – Breaking up the blasting already? And is that a bass guitar I hear? Is this even black metal? Seriously though, I like this little part.
1:31 – Did not see that change coming. Maybe this album will throw me some curve balls.
2:10 – These spoken word parts are always involuntarily funny. A thick Scandinavian accent rarely conveys the epicness it’s going for. Then again, if vikings came marauding through your town with perfect diction, would you even be intimidated?
3:16 – That drum roll somehow gave off a programmed vibe, but MA tells me an actual drummer was involved. Not a fan of this sort of overly clean sound. I ask again, is this even black metal?
4:10 (roughly) – My notes just say “4:20-ish”. I have no idea what exactly I meant to say here, but I do like this part of the song with its change of pace. So that was probably it.
4:47 – Had I not checked the tracklist, I would not have known that the second song just started. I thought the aforementioned bit was a bridge part and now we’re back to the main riff of the first song. Either I’m not paying attention too well or this is already starting to sound hella samey to me.
6:04 – Another cool part with that little “tack tacka-tack tacka-tack” of the drums.
6:25 – A nice little pre-segue before they actually segue into the next part. I daresay these folks had some songwriting chops.
11:00 (or thereabouts) – Finally some mention of Satan. I was starting to wonder when he’d come up. Black metal cred regained.
14:44 – The main riff of this song sounds decidedly viking-ish to me. It probably has nothing in common with viking metal (which I’m not super fond of anyway), but I do like the change of pace.
19:30 – It might be the quality of the upload (or worse, my speakers), but there’s some weird sound issue here, as if the guitar on the left channel is quickly fizzing in and out. Just wondering if this is how it sounds on the actual album. Given that the upload is from 2013, there’s a chance this is the Dan Swanö remaster, which you would think would remove stuff like that. Do you hear it?
22:17 – MA informs me that among Sacrementum’s lyrical themes is Michael Moorcock’s Elric series. I never read that, but immediately assumed these guys were fantasy nerds. However, Wikipedia says, “Elric is written as a deliberate reversal of what Moorcock saw as clichés commonly found in fantasy adventure novels inspired by the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, and a direct antithesis of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian.” That sounds pretty interesting.
23:00 – Wikipedia also has the paragraph on the band’s history starting with the words “shortly thereafter”. Talk about in medias res. It also makes it sound like the subsequent albums could be more interesting than this one, but that might just be me wanting what I can’t have right now. And yes, I am of course still listening attentively and not at all getting distracted by Wikipedia.
24:44 – See, if I weren’t listening, I wouldn’t have noticed how sweet the lead guitar sounds in this part.
30:46 – Ah, here we go: the obligatory soft intro.
31:38 – That was alright. Didn’t last too long, and at this point, variety for the sake of variety is enough for me.
33:10 – More of those sound issues. Look at Mr. Audiophile over here, la-dee-dah.
41:52 – I dig the contrast between song eight and song nine, with the former ending in a blistering storm which is then followed by the latter’s slight fade-in into a riff the kind of which I haven’t heard on the album before.
42:38 – More spoken word, still not great.
43:50 – Uhh… what’s happening?
45:20 – AYIEEEEEEEEE
Well, that was okay. I got a little bored at times, yet I can’t say it didn’t have its highlights here and there. I’ve mentioned most of them, but for each one, there’s about three minutes worth of stuff that doesn’t do anything for me. The guys definitely knew what they were doing, and I appreciate that they didn’t go over-the-top theatrical by adding keyboards and such. Can’t see myself going back to this, but can’t really begrudge it its status as a bit of a classic, either. Final verdict: Shrug/5
Your turn! What did you think about this album the first time you heard it? Shoot off in the comment section.