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Massacre (2017)
Rating: 7/10

Syncretism is the 13th full-length studio album from Netherlands death metallers Sinister.

This is a band that over the years I’ve had an on / off love affair with, and I wasn’t overly impressed with their last outing, 2015’s Dark Memorials – an album consisting of solely cover versions. And so the feeling continues with Syncretism, a record that I cannot doubt for its barrage of riffs, speeding percussion and chesty cough vocals, and yet I find my attention drifting in spite of being battered, bruised and bludgeoned at times.

The quintet hammers its way through some impressive material; most notably ‘Blood Soaked Domain’, ‘Black Slithering Mass’ and the title cut, all of which successfully combine blasts of technical speed with slower, almost Gothic escapades of dark atmospherics and catchy, trudging riffs.

With ‘Blood Soaked Domain’ Sinister show why there’s still life in the old dog yet; the hammering percussion is most impressive and there’s plenty of twists – mostly in the flailing solo exploits and inserts of grim melody threaded with trundling bass. Meanwhile, ‘Black Slithering Mass’ begins in typical bludgeoning, bellowing fashion – deep, echoing vocals and wild complex riffs and solos congregate along the wall of brutal percussions.

Being a fan of the old school era since its inception, I find Sinister’s current malevolence as one all too eager to nod towards to the mid-to-late 90s, a time when for me death metal became almost too polished, glossy and rather generic. But fair play to the boys for injecting a sepulchral, Gothic air which again makes itself known with the title track, and it’s here that Sinister takes on a far more powerful structure – a blackened death metal act of arrogance and gargantuan ability and weight as effects spatter the torrent of riffs.

Other standout tracks are the blazing opener ‘Neurophobic’ – a death metalised Slayer – the crushing ‘Convulsion Of Christ’ with its eye-gouging melody, the face-ripping torment of ‘Rite Of The Blood Eagle’, and the slow-building menace of the mid-paced ‘Confession Before The Slaughter’.

It’s all good stuff; a seemingly perfect combination of pace, dark melody and catchy brutality. However, just like with previous efforts, there’s no questioning the ballsy, groove-based slabs of monstrous evil, but when the experience is over I rarely feel flustered and left feeling as if I’ve heard just another contemporary death metal racket.

Maybe Syncretism just isn’t my thing, but I still appreciate its qualities… even if they won’t live long in my memory.

Neil Arnold