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Dark Memorials

Massacre (2015)
Rating: 6/10

To mark their 25th anniversary, Dutch death metal legends Sinister has decided to release Dark Memorials, an opus featuring ten cover versions and two bonus tracks; re-recordings of ‘Spiritual Immolation’ and ‘Compulsory Resignation’.

Now, if you like me you were a fan of Sinister’s early demos and records then you may be quite happy with this. After all, it’s likely that anything the band released from the late 90s onwards may not have impressed you; especially with 2014’s The Post-Apocalyptic Servant wearing thin after a few listens. Personally, I don’t see the point in bands doing a complete covers album – although I don’t mind a brace of covers perched on the end of a release. I’m also not a big fan of bands re-recording their material.

Sinister’s new platter opens with the brief instrumental ‘The Malicious’ and then a rather average version of Sepultura’s classic tune ‘Beneath The Remains’. And immediately I’m turning my nose up, feeling that so many classic tunes of this ilk should remain untouched. Sinister give the track a more deathly coating although the vocals here just don’t seem to come close to matching Max Cavalera’s snarl, but I guess it’s all very much fun and games when bands turn their hand to others work. The track does feature a hardy bass and decent percussive performance, but when all is said and done its mere novelty – the guitar lacking the cutting edge and the vocal dragging it into the realms of death metal mediocrity.

Next is a rendition of Carcass’ ‘Exhume To Consume’, which is pretty dreadful in my opinion; the band not even attempting to replicate the crust-coated, slime-ridden original, and so again we hear Sinister rendering a staggeringly brilliant death metal tune rather redundant. Indeed, the bloated grooves which Carcass came up with are nowhere to be seen here, and with only a few vocal effects aside ‘Exhume…’ pretty much lets me know what I’m in for; Sinister clearly lacking the gritty British nature to enable the version to work.

It’s no surprise then that Bolt Thrower’s ‘Unleashed Upon Mankind’ is equally bland. But with every track on offer Sinister somehow strips away any vintage fluff and replaces it with that predictable death metal grimace, and of all the tunes only Merauder’s ‘Master Killer’ and, in part, Death’s ‘Beyond The Unholy Grave’ really work. In fact, Kreator’s ‘Under The Guillotine’ and Autopsy’s ‘Ridden With Disease’ are pretty much unrecognisable; both dull to the extreme.

In a sense, Sinister shows its limitation by way of churning out each track bereft of frills or identity, and so Repulsion’s ‘Radiation Sickness’ and more so Slayer’s ‘Necrophiliac’ become standard death metal workouts – the only saving grace being a half-decent rendition of Carnage’s ‘Blasphemies Of The Flesh’ where Sinister bring an extra dose of rotten fuzz to proceedings.

Sinister’s ‘Spiritual Immolation’ and ‘Compulsory Resignation’ originally appeared on the band’s 1992 debut – and for me best – album Crossing The Styx, and while these re-recordings act as a timely reminder of how good death metal was in the early 90s they are still unnecessary additions which may appeal to Sinister collectors but hardly anyone else. I guess I’m just too old fashioned to appreciate the entertaining side of cover versions and re-recordings which aren’t fit to lace the boots of the originals. But happy anniversary anyway guys!

Neil Arnold