June 18, 2020 Sinister – Deformation of the Holy Realm (Album Review)
Formed over three decades ago, Dutch workhorses Sinister are set to release Deformation of the Holy Realm on June 19th through Massacre Records.
Formed amidst the maelstrom of late Eighties Death Metal, nearly two dozen members have graced the lineup of Sinister since that time. Then, taking a short break in 2003, founding Drummer Aad Kloosterwaard and the lone original member by that time, resurrected the band as its new vocalist. Interestingly enough the same lineup has never kept between any two albums, and their fourteenth full-length album, Deformation of the Holy Realm is no exception: new members here include the arrival of Bassist Ghislain van der Stel, along with Guitarists Michal Grall and Walter Bokito Tjwa.
Multitasking is another Sinister hallmark, because past albums have been completed by as few as three members. For this album, van der Stel handled most of the actual guitar and bass, while Grall added some writing credits. All these factors in mind, longtime Drummer Toep Duin has assumed the duty of writing lyrics, and frequent Collaborator Alex Tartsus returns to handle the artwork.
A lot to process, despite all these lineup changes, the sounds of wailing guitars and guttural vocals continue to define and progress the Sinister sound. Also, as they have from the very first moments of their 1992 debut, Cross the Styx, the band has employed brief, effective cinematic sound effects; setting the mood for listeners without straying too far from their main product of blistering, punishing Death Metal. Deformation of the Holy Realm expands on this technique by coagulating several different backing vocal styles, including operatic, choral, and monastic, largely handled by Denis Mauko.
Some of the guitar work by van der Stel goes well to add haunting aspect. For example, there are the dueling lines near the end of “Unique Death Experience,” in particular, which has a callow, harrowing delivery. Then there is the dark chanting that opens “Blood from the Chalice,” matched by an equally chilling clean guitar line. This is while the solo work near the midway point of “The Ominous Truth” ends far too quickly and leaves you chasing for more down a dark hallway. Even the closing track, “Entering the Underworld,” uses a simple but effective guitar line, coupled with disconcerting piano, to chillingly wrap the album with an almost David Lynch flair.
There are quirks where the sound effects get a bit out of hand. This is the case with the percussive bell opening of “Scourge of Demons” which is almost over the top; especially when compared to its immediate predecessor, “Unique Death Experience.” Then there is the orchestral opening of “Suffering from Immortal Death” which almost sounds bolted-on, rather than integrated within the overall song, as a band like Septicflesh might do.
Still, there are enough brutal moments in the forty-five minutes here; the title track arrives early, after a brief introductory movement, and grabs you by the neck for a dense, powerful ride. Furthermore, the subtle groove nestled within “Unbridled Sacrilege” arrives to make a case for the best cut on the album, and “The Ominous Truth,” the final ‘full’ track, uses a slow build to convert its opening guitar to a full onslaught.
The road for these Dutch masters has been long and circuitous, but throughout drastic lineup changes, mixed with the occasional hiatus, Aad Kloosterwaard has kept the Sinister flag flying high. That said, Deformation of the Holy Realm is another strong entry in the band’s catalog. From the biting title track to strong offerings like “The Ominous Truth,” “Unique Death Experience,” and “Blood from the Chalice,” the band wastes little time producing another quality album. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Deformation of the Holy Realm 4 out of 5 stars.