At the very peaks of their celestial castles the daimon of chaos and death dance upon the bloodied corpse of humanity, a hulk of cursed ever-regenerated flesh eternally gored straight through by the bluntest spears of our own making. With each blood-spattered leap and righteously wet stomp a cosmic karmic justice is served for the wasteful rending of our undeserving terrarium, that deepest-felt wound of the Earth, century-upon-century in the making. Oblivion and void are auld and hopeful ideas anymore. That there is eternity or quietude beyond the momentary suffering of existence is a lie told only to the distress of the imagined ‘self’.– Waste any measure of time upon hope if you will but, what’ll always stand in the way of the obscene search for meaning within the feigned existential cosmonaut is the need for shared purpose. Will you go on feeding the flesh down the spear, or twist the mass and weaponize the bungling and feeble into fortitude? Without question the persistent love for the deeper majesty of extreme metal achieved in the late 80’s and early 90’s death metallic Scandinavian youth delirium is the twisted hulk reborn in the hands of Sarcasm, a reanimated deity. Unassuming in death and alight with passion resurrected circa 2015, these old lords of Swedish melodic blackened death metal now achieve a third full-length, ‘Esoteric Tales of the Unserene’; Once again against all odds and once again of the highest tradition.
The erratically scrawled and melodious vision of Uppsala, Sweden based musician/vocalist Heval Bozarslan expands now between three projects (Sarcasm, Third Storm, and Deathswarm) thanks in no small part to an alliance with drummer Alvaro Svanerö (Imperial Domain). This great boon of black and death metal ideas since 2017 follows the too-soon death of drummer Oskar Karlsson (Defleshed, Gates of Ishtar, etc.) who’d been a key ingredient in the signature melodic black/death sound of Sarcasm since about 1993 (and the Uppsala scene before and after) when they’d made a certain ‘leap’ in professional sound at the time, including the (then unreleased) 1994 full-length ‘Burial Dimensions’ and underrated ‘A Touch of the Burning Red Sunset’ demo. What differentiated Sarcasm then was perhaps less pronounced than it was over two decades later when their first two full-lengths released in 2016 (‘Burial Dimensions’) and 2017 (‘Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds’) respectively: A brilliant capture of the golden era of early melodic death metal with a sound tweaked just enough to stand out up north from the melodic black/death monsters growing within early 90’s Stockholm area rehearsal spaces. You know the bigger names well enough between Dissection, Dawn, Unanimated and Eucharist but it was some awkward fate that Sarcasm would be left out of that conversation until much later. Now on this third full-length we see the shadow of those old forms towering still, never crumbling, but with Sarcasm‘s own unique personality shining alongside those old classics thanks to unique diction and characteristic atmosphere.
‘Esoteric Tales of the Unserene’ is a melodic death metal album and perhaps even more of a directly potent one than the snaking (early) Necrophobic-esque bursts of ‘Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds’. The expectation on my end was that Svanerö‘s input might lean towards the late 90’s Göteborg lilt of Imperial Domain, though I’m admittedly ignorant of their 2018 album’s stylistic modus, and instead it seems the balance here exceeds the formative melodic intentions of bands like Desultory (‘Into Eternity’) while maintaining the machine-gunned attack of groups like Excretion and the aforementioned Dawn. So, Sarcasm still sounds like Sarcasm but more directly to-the-point melodic as Side A kicks into gear immediately. “Parochial Past Resonates” in particular fires every cylinder of my mind; I cannot begin to describe the ecstatic nigh religious high, the soul-slammingly emotional experience it is to sit within that song’s graces and think back to the years I’d spent spinning an old crusty bootleg of the ‘A Touch of the Burning Red Sunset’ (1998) demo compilation wishing this band actually existed. It isn’t nostalgia that drives that moment so much as the gratifying moment of satiation it brings today to see that potential realized through persistence in 2019.– It is beyond inspirational. Driven by introspective and non-cloying lead guitar melodies the rest of Side A is a flawless rendering of Swedish melodic death metal circa ’94 without any of the trappings interceding from west Sweden nor any of the strange additions from late 90’s dark metal globalism. This is, however, Sarcasm at their most ‘catchy’ and memorable to date.
Bozarslan‘s unique rasping elocution of his increasingly verbose lyrics serve as a prime highlight and characterizing aspect of Sarcasm‘s sound post-1994 though I don’t think any prior record from this project set his voice atop the mix with such clarity as ‘Esoteric Tales of the Unserene’ and as a result I didn’t tend to need a lyric sheet for the majority of the listening experience. The dual guitar presence of Anders Eriksson (Deathswarm) and Peter Laitinen (Imperial Domain) shows some great reverence for the olden days of Swedish melodic death metal they’d both been a part of without stretching too far outside of their work on ‘Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds’. Again this is a more ‘catchy’ and less atmospherically twisted version of the old ways but that shouldn’t indicate that these aren’t equally heavy songs. Side B features an equally potent set of lead-driven moments but there the riffs really begin to rip out into pure death metal territory; The Destruction-esque riffs that highlight “Realm of Shadowless Existence”, the deathly mid-paced scrawls “Celestial Nights” and the The Moaning-like ravager that closes the album, “The Great Calm Embraced”. It all coalesces and reverberates as a fantastic third page in the book of Sarcasm.
The ethereal end, the bounding beginning, it all represents the most perfectly attuned ~37 minute melodic death album one could imagine Sarcasm releasing in the early-to-mid 90’s and I find great value in that vision holding fast between three full-lengths that all feel distinct and viable on their own. Of course I am a fanatic, an unreasonable fan of this band and the bands I’ve mentioned in reference to them; If you’ve not been so touched by everything from ‘The Red in the Sky is Ours’ through ‘Thy Black Destiny’ then it might simply appear as a sharply achieved early melodic death metal album but nothing less than just that; An entry fully evoking a golden era of inspiration for Swedish death and black metal. I’ve sat and listened to ‘Esoteric Tales of the Unserene’ nearly fifty times since late September and have not been able to shake the thought from my head that this is exactly the music I wanted to hear in 2019, exactly the type of music I have been addicted to since the mid-90’s, and perhaps one of my favorite examples of the style these last couple of decades. Pushing aside the miraculous story of the return of Sarcasm and my own years of fandom (before, and since), it is a masterful piece in a sub-genre modern melodic bands do not appear capable of; As such it is an achievement I can heartily celebrate and enjoy. Highest recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest that the two preview tracks “Vortex of the Vultures” and “Flawless Anomalies” provided thus far are only a crack in the window that is opened by “Parochial Past Resonates” and “The Great Calm Embraced”.
Crystallized by arcane worship. 5.0/5.0
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