When I was sixteen years old, I owned a Cradle Of filth t-shirt for every day, as well as two oversized hoodies that made me look like I’d been bundled into a straight-jacket. Every day I’d waddle around like a proud, gothic peacock, sweating bullets under a leather jacket on a hot summer’s day. I eventually, as teenagers are prone to do, moved on to what I believed to be “harder stuff” and so my collection of shirts and hoodies went hastily to the recycling centre. One of my hoodies may actually still be at an ex-girlfriend’s house, though she did threaten it with burning. That’s the way it is in life and love, baby. And just like that, no more Cradle Of Filth, the symbols of a band I’d put on this huge, shimmering pedestal for years had been thrown to the bin bags, never to be seen again. Just as I’d abandoned Mr. Filth and co, so too did I abandon anything that merged heavy metal and any kind of symphony or intricate melody. The song could be armoured elephant heavy, and I’d still cringe my face into dust if I heard a single keyboard note. That’s just the way my attention span operated, and that’s how it remained until I heard Sorrowseed.
I could spend the rest of this review making all of these tired and lazy comparisons between COF and Sorrowseed and most would be true, but that’s not fair to a reader, and most certainly not to the band themselves. The fact of the matter is, I haven’t listened to this kind of music in years and years. My reference levels for this music are foggy memories from a leather-clad adolescence, so who am I to throw my leg over a wild horse? Besides, there’s more to Sorrowseed than harpy shrieking and Black Metal on Neoclassical buggery. As I’d find out, “Nemesis Engine”, their fourth full-length offering, is actually nothing short of an absorbing record. It never, at any point, feels like a chore to listen to.
Let me roll back a little bit, I’m getting ahead of myself. Listening to “Nemesis Engine”, for me, was like being invited to an elegant dinner party on the money side of town and ending up in a ditch by six o’clock the next morning. As mentioned previously, I’d shunned anything in the slightest bit Gothic in years, this sound had become alien to me. However, any preconceptions I had about Sorrowseed were dispelled not a second had their keyboard intro ended and “Arcana (Of the Lich Queen)” burst savagely into action. Ah yes, a heavy metal record this is, and a furiously paced one at that. I’ll have that on a caviar cracker, cheers.
The arrangements on this record are taut as wire rope and not a breath of air is taken in the convulsive manner in which they are hammered out, track after track after track. You can hear a live performance in these recordings, you can breathe everything in. Keeping the crosshairs on the instrumental side of this record, you get a good sight of just how well each arrangement fits into the next, like a glove. It never misses a beat and even surprises at times. There’s some interesting riffs on this disk, tirelessly aggressive drumming and, though I’ve avoided it all these years, some keyboards that actually offer something up to the sound. Regarding the vocals, Lilith Astaroth has a range that very few singers can boast of. She springs seamlessly from one place to another, foaming at the mouth and barking wildly one moment and singing an eerie strand of clean the next, much is the case with the album’s title track. And when one has such interesting narrative behind the lyrics they sing or growl or bark, you can hear it in their delivery. As is the case with heavy music, you don’t know what the fuck they’re saying, but you sure believe it.
With “Nemesis Engine”, you’ve got all the energy of Thrash, the charm of Symphonic, and all the stifled rage of a Black Metal record, right there. It has that special kind of electricity where a good band came together with a good recording studio and simply put out something good. A fan of the genre, I am not, but listening to this record has most certainly shown me how flexible and fluid it can be. I won’t call it a nostalgia trip because it sounds better than that, so I’ll simply urge those of you with a taste for the Gothic Metal sound to feed your ears (to?) this slab of unrelenting vehemence and ponderous monstrosity.