SIDIOUS – Blackest Insurrection (2022)REVIEW

Having morphed, resolved and reintegrated themselves over the course of a decade it’d seem that London-based black metal quartet Sidious have found a form which functions best for their intent on this third full-length album. Born unto a realm of outsized maximalism influenced by a prior era of pomp and swagger, they’ve slowly honed a ‘less is more’ approach to composition between a restless drum chair and increasingly dissociative style as the years drool on by. What solid scorched soil they’ve planted themselves in today now chills over by way of an easily read, and enjoyed, directive of black metal with a certain era and pantheon in mind on ‘Blackest Insurrection‘, leaving zero openings for accoutrement to interrupt or distract their rasping, stoic resonance.

Despite little musical connection, the Mark I configuration of Sidious was arguably built from a new direction planned by Seed of Detest, a deathcore band formed between a similar line-up, before they’d collapsed that project in 2012. On their first EP (‘Ascension to the Throne ov Self‘, 2013) and debut full-length (‘Revealed in Profane Splendour‘, 2014) these folks were playing a form of symphonic black/death metal that wasn’t so much typical as it were obvious in its influence, essentially taking the forceful nature of post-‘Demigod‘ era Behemoth and the ghoulish atmospheric keyboard work of mid-era Dimmu Borgir for a result roughly along the lines of Fleshgod Apocalypse and/or Hate‘s more dramatic era in the second half of the 2000’s. Of course the French black/death scene of the early 2000’s was just as inundated with similar style and those records had ended up fittingly placed on the Kaotoxin/Xenokorp roster. For the second album’s press cycle they’d often been discussed as an Eye of Solitude side project, sharing not only buzz on the same label but largely the same line-up sans the rhythm section, who’d departed either during or before the first album completed, prompting Daniel Neagoe (Clouds, ex-Unfathomable Ruination) to step in and it’d been a fine record because of this shift overall. None of this trivia builds precedence, though, since between then an now all members of Sidious have not only left Eye of Solitude but shifted their focus entirely to black metal, a more ‘pure’ early 2000’s style of it which is influenced by an admixture of Scandinavian classics and the U.K.’s take on said formulae since.

If we can consider a band’s pathway to personalized style their ‘reputation’ based on a decisive, well-planned vision then I suppose the first observation to make about Sidious is that they’ve been somewhat fickle in their exploration of black metal climes since you’ll see tastes and directive change with each new recording (and each new drummer). This was additionally true for ‘Temporal‘ in 2019, an appropriately ‘modern’ black metal record with some folkish, atmospheric guitar progressions guiding its mid-paced yet brutal movements. Under the hood their compositions were still quite similar, technical and framed by abrupt turns of phrase in terms of riffing, but the voicing and arrangement aimed for something more clear in alignment with black metal. Of course I can take a bit of those observations back now that ‘Blackest Insurrection‘ arrives, wherein the band hone and build upon some of the core sound explored on ‘Temporal‘ while pushing a bit more air, seething in a very loud and destructive way without overthinking each movement. Now returning to the studio with longtime recording engineer Russ Russel at the helm and current Hecate Enthroned drummer Valdr on the kit, the greater focus of the band is better achieved this fourth time around.

On some level Sidious are working with a sound which most would compare with nowadays (or simply enduring) incarnations of classicist Norse-leaning Scandinavian black metal forms such as those found within the greater works of Endezzma, Enthroned, Urgehal, and even the thrashier side of bands like Tsjuder and Svarttjern here and there. Point being that there is no gimmick, no trend, no major innovation and no great reason for anyone less than obsessed with all new black metal releases to hunt ’em down. This is less a criticism than it is meant to be a gauge for expectations as what you’ll have heard on a quick preview of opener, title track and first single “Blackest Insurrection” is largely indicative of what the band are up to in terms of energy, voice, and attack throughout the full listen. From my point of view it is strong stuff that really doesn’t need dissecting beyond the parts where they do slow down and begin to play with pacing and light use of melody.

The obvious single and selling point here is also a music video you can source on the appropriate channels in “Blood-Soaked Mist” a simple yet effective chord progression which they’ve modulated rocking beats into sturm-und-menacing movement. This is clear enough essence when grabbing the album but I’d generally been more drawn to the songs which’d stretched ideas further, or taken a few stronger liberties with the expected rhythms. The first example being “Thy Palace Yond the Threshold” which’d fit quite well with the irregular rhythms and atmospheric drapery of ‘Temporal‘ yet this song has a distinct descent to its shape, eventually running head-first into ranting prose and dissolving from barbaric aggression into dreaming dead lilt. It’d been the piece to pull my attention in by way of its lucid and actually quite beautiful second half. They’ve more or less inverted the dynamic over on Side B with “To Know My Kingdom” with the jagged yet round edged central movement of the song, building from a humble start into a plateau which seems to last for several minutes as they scrape through the piece. Some actual avant-garde moments arise within the closure which “Jewel of the Hadean Crown” provides but I’d almost rather suggest study of these moments, which are largely buried by the first impression of the album itself, offer the joy of discovery and long term scouring available herein.

The best possible movement beyond ‘Temporal‘, the finest version of Sidious to date, and perhaps my favorite album cover art of theirs thanks to the fine pen of Black Typography (Artem Grigoryev) all adds up to a worthy listen with the caveat that it’ll need to grip you in some profound way in order to convince the ear to keep listening until those deeper layers are revealed. This increasingly loose-shouldered yet intensely rasped bodes well for where they’ll head in the future but also provides a record I’m keen to keep listening to, it having a few blips on the radar which compel without providing a massive high or low to distract otherwise. A moderately high recommendation, moreso if you’re a black metal underground lifer looking for something righteously atmospheric.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Blackest Insurrection
LABEL(S):Clobber Records
RELEASE DATE:March 11th, 2022

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