We, like frogs set around a great pond, hug close to the works of prōtogonos that’d birth from the jeweled tides. As 2019 came to a close, an erratic frenzy of croaking echoed across the waters, a sign of anticipation that our being of worship will soon be witnessed by desert, mountain and rainforest alike. No prophecy came from Proteus himself in birth of Sutrah but instead the rays of the cracking cosmic egg of Prajāpati, and sung by the will of Vāc through the lucid waters that this Montreal, Québec based progressive/technical death metal band yet consider a mere place of birth, still in their pre-cognitive stage. I, and anyone who’d heard their self-released debut (‘Dunes‘, 2017) know that the eye opens within it, revealing a masterpiece. If that debut was an introversion for the sake of personal and artistic definition then ‘Alethia’ is the opening of all pores, the swinging-wide open thousand arms of confident presence for the sake of a consciousness shared. In the most ancient terms it is the light of reality, the unconcealed and very present… everything that is intended to pour around Sutrah‘s being as they rise from a marrow-streaked primordial soup with pearlescent eyes fixated upon enlightenment.
Back in 2017 the Vedic energies and imagery of ‘Dunes’ had pointed me towards classic Cynic and StarGazer for general comparisons as to what vibe and station Sutrah bring to progressive death metal with fairly technical arrangements. In the handful of years since the clearer comparisons reveal themselves within later Anata and some of the less ‘brutal’ and Nile-influenced moments on Lykathea Aflame‘s ‘Elvenefris‘ yet today in the midst of ‘Aletheia’, Sutrah do not express as a plainly influenced entity but instead offer their own atmospheric traits and tastefully experimental notions. The phylum of death metal where the band’s sound resides is implied well enough, thoughtful and atmospheric work that is brutal as often as it is intimately transcendent.
What first distinguishes this work from the previous recording, which’d benefited from being in the works for 5-6 years as the project formed, is an emphasis on patient atmospheric generation that often foams to such a strong head that the impact of their Gorguts-esque gnarl n’ swaying guitar movements blends into the whole rather than presenting an expected juxtaposition of forms. The sound design appears with deeper layered folds, specifically the atmospheric guitar work that swarms “Variation I.i – Umwelt” into its electrifying build. Surely parts of ‘Dunes’ were exactly this ambitious but the level of self-actualization in terms of actual render/production is well improved. I would posit that the core membership of the group have all contributed something selfless to ‘Aletheia’, as all elements appear in service to the whole, but I did fine myself cranking it quite loud to try and find Alex Bao‘s far less springing-forth basslines as they are leashed to the rhythm guitar tone slightly more. Perhaps one of the finest session drummers around today, Kévin Paradis (Benighted, Mithridatic) again contributes his work to Sutrah and his performance is noticeably more involved, placed not only for structure but as ignition for the most key points of impact on ‘Aletheia’. The rhythm section bears emphasis because it may be one of the last layers you’ll peel from the experience due to such strong guidance from the guitar/vocal performances.
The first three tracks within the greater suite presented make up their own sort of 15 minute build that appears in service to the all-in-one great event, “Variation II.ii – Genèse”, a fifteen minute song comprising the highest peak and second ‘half’ of this ~30 minute EP. So much detail has already presented itself prior to this pieces engagement that its appearance becomes a wave to ride, a lung-filling peak presenting the full spectrum of motion that Sutrah are readied with today. We don’t get exactly as much gangsa as we did on ‘Dunes’ though it does provide a meaningful paradigm shift in the middle of the piece following an impressive ‘Symbolic’-esque riff. I don’t think it’ll make sense to dwell on the piece too much, that is the listener’s own joy to unravel and perhaps the heart of the listening experience that ‘Aletheia’ provides. I will say that the ambitious depth therein applies to the whole, amidst the implication of spiritually-driven motions, or a philosophy in action, that renders this release exactly as special as the bands full-length.
As an existing and still enthusiastic fan of ‘Dunes’ (which will finally be out in vinyl LP form soon, via The Artisan Era) and the world beyond it’d promised back in 2017, I am very much pleased with this engaging and thoroughly entertaining Sutrah EP. To see growth and greater alignment, even to just admire that they’ve not lost the plot but redefined it, is a wonder deserving of high praise. A very high recommendation for ‘Aletheia’ and a secure spot as one of the absolute best releases of March.
Very high recommendation. 4.5/5.0
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