Last Sacrament – Enantiodromia (2013)

Florida’s Last Sacrament are one of the rare contemporary bands that successfully captures the essence of old school death metal while developing a voice of their own in the process. While initial full length Enantiodromia has a few juvenile kinks to work out — the members are shockingly young — the record as a whole is a striking, confident foray through classic metal.

Coming off as a hybrid between Bolt Thrower and Demilich, the band shows remarkable restraint despite obvious musical virtuosity which fully achieves their melodic ideas yet still allows for a modern and personal flair to color their presentation as purely their own. A foreboding atmosphere introduces the dramatic title track, which despite its length is probably the least musically adventurous song on the record, allowing for a subtle manipulation of the listener as the album only gets weirder from there.

The band never shows its hand fully until the record has concluded, which enables an overarching development that few modern bands attempt. Last Sacrament understands build, catch and release, never choosing to bewilder the audience with every trick in the book in the initial tracks, providing instead a purpose for each step of the album’s duration. One of the first unique qualities you will encounter is the band’s use of microtonal scales.

Most music we encounter has twelve tones to work with, but Last Sacrament chooses instruments with a sixteen note palette. This is an actually useful gimmick in metal, and a far cry from death metal with a flute or any of the other diversions modern bands use to disguise songwriting limitations. The sixteen tones that comprise the material here directly give the compositions a melodic development that can’t be achieved otherwise.

Songs like “A Perverse Proselytism” prey on the experienced ear because these “in-between” tones are actually quite nauseating to hear. As listeners, we are conditioned to the twelve tone scale, and anything outside of that is a foreign, exotic and challenging element. Due to this, the aforementioned atmosphere of the record approaches an alienness much like Demilich’s Nespithe, or to make a non-metal comparison, the intimate yet shielded seasick warblings of My Bloody Valentine.

Last Sacrament’s devotion to Demilich never approaches the outright plagiarism of Chthe’ilist, although standout track “Material Identity” comes close, but despite the obvious influence, the tonal progression on this particular song is easily the band’s most advanced and occurs so late in the record that it doesn’t color the entire record as one of tribute. A full artistic development is realized at Enantiodromia‘s conclusion, and it is decidedly that of the band itself. Although there is confidence in the overall presentation, there are issues that prevent this record from being a modern classic: some phrasal transitions are haphazardly pieced together and at times, certain riffs seem designed so simply that they exist merely to be soloed over. These solos provide a welcome texture over the downtuned miasma, but a few riffs are so rhythmically knuckleheaded (but not in a metalcore sense) that it hinders their more progressive elements rather than compliments them. Despite these moments, the riffs thematically develop and relate to each other, and no left-field tonal aberrations occur to betray their aesthetic.

As promising a debut as you could hope for in modern times, Last Sacrament has developed simultaneously a welcome homage to the great death metal giants of the early 90s as well as a strikingly unique portrait of a band hungry to continue along the path forged by their progenitors into new and exciting terrain that maintains the spirit of death metal that few bands so young could understand. They are working on two new releases for this coming year, and should they refine their approach in a way where their techniques and tonal leanings don’t obscure their overall message, we could be on the verge of witnessing a modern death metal band flourish where few have been able to succeed.

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20 thoughts on “Last Sacrament – Enantiodromia (2013)”

  1. Bill Hopkins says:

    I would like to hear more from the writers who dip into actual music theory on this site on the following:

    What is the ‘phrasel’ way of composing a piece of music that is allegedly one of the main things that sets good metal apart from bad metal?

    It is, i am presuming, not melodic or harmonic structure (and this release illustrates that well as it is outsite of regular tonal scales)

    Although I have a vague intuituve sense if what is meant, and indeed think I hear I can hear it often, I can’t help think that it has never been spelled out in enough detail aroundhere…

    1. Tips says:

      First things first:

      In music theory, a phrase (Greek: φράση) is a unit of musical meter that has a complete musical sense of its own, built from figures, motifs, and cells, and combining to form melodies, periods and larger sections. Terms such as sentence and verse have been adopted into the vocabulary of music from linguistic syntax.

      A “phrasal” approach to music-making means that the phrases themselves are the center and the DEPARTURE POINT of the music.

      You may find phrases in rock music, but they are basically lines written over pre-conceived simple chord rotations. In such cases, the possibilities of phrase are limited by the chosen chords. I.e. More often than not, a melody tone should be selected from the tones that make up the chord played under/behind it.

      A phrasal approach does not imply not being aware of the possibilities of the chords, but that the choice of phrase, in its raw power, dictates the rest of the music.

      From there on, good phrasal writing has to do with main phrases defining other phrases, or the phrases “speaking to each other”, as it were, which is done through motif and theme. The challenge lies in how to create variety, and how to break into other areas and themes with elegance or at least without catastrophically disrupting the sense of the composition (which calls to mind the idea of “narrative”, a very illustrative analogue).

      A good man once recommended reading Schoenberg’s Fundamentals of Musical Composition for a modern and clear explanation of motifs and the possibilities of their handling in the first few chapters.

  2. Julio says:

    Excellent review The album really is good. I hope there are more articles like this one of musical reviews with timeless value instead of reviewing mediocre albums.

  3. Svmmoned says:

    Pleasant, but theoretically it should punch harder, as many good elements are there. I’m not sure that they always know what they are doing. There are parts where it is like an exercise. Those abrupt changes doesn’t click for one reason or another and sound forced. Instead of providing said punch, they end up contributing to overall flatness of compositions.

  4. Rainer Weikusat says:

    Judging from a first look, this feels like a 40 minute intro for a track which never starts.

  5. NWN Ladyboy Fister Cvlt says:

    This misses the mark. Too groovy, repetitive and boring though much better than the Gorguts EP.

  6. Claudia Soulroth says:

    Horrible boring mudmetal.

  7. Although the writing here is good, this release is not at all up to DMU standards. The microtonal element is barely perceptible, and only functions as a gimmick to trick the listener into thinking generic, Hate Eternal knock off riffs are actually interesting.

    1. Jerry Hauppa says:

      I definitely don’t want to lower the standards of the site- this is a band that struck me after wading through countless new bands on YouTube while looking for something inspiring. As I said, if you are bored during the beginning of the record, one of their strengths is in showcasing different developmental techniques as the album progresses. “Emptiness Denial” and “Material Identity” show a much more adventurous approach than some of the more straightforward songs, and hopefully indicate a flourishing persona for their next release. As for the microtonal stuff, if they utilized it more it wouldn’t be as effective and would come off as pure gimmickry: the strength is is the sparing utilization among the common musical palette. The main point of the review was to express that it is an impressive debut, and with polishing they could grow into a strong act in future releases. I attempted to show where their flaws are, and didn’t intend to paint them as an elite act just yet.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        This is something Daniel Maarat would probably have called »caverncore« and rightly so. One could also call it “Simon McBride metal”, in case someone here happens to have encountered “lesser, modern blues players”.

        it should punch harder,

        Or at all.

        Horrible death sludge from the horrible death slug.

        1. Jerry Hauppa says:

          Everything you’ve ever posted as a recommended listen on here has been total garbage.
          Good to see you, Rainer.

          1. Rainer Weikusat says:

            I’ve never posted anything as »recommended listen«. The term alone is repellent. I’d also usually be very interested in some more intelligent criticism than one based on unfortunate choice of words by people who aren’t native speakers (“Winds of Blasphemy” — “Farts from hell! Hahaha!”) or “xycore”, the latter only meaning $person has been exposed to an overdose of shitty, American hardcore at a formative age (possibly incurable).

            Regardless of this, this album singularly lacks any power of expression: It’s all laid-back grumbling (the parts I listened to at least) followed by more laid-back grumbling and preceeded by yet more laid-back grumbling. The “Simon McBride”-styled solo at the start of the 7th track is particularly out-of-place. That’s maybe interesting to some people but the style is quite tired. Throughout the track, there are lead guitar flashes which don’t seem to serve any purpose beyond distracting a listener from the “died of old age on a sofa”-atmoshpere by flim-flam. There’s also a straight hard rock solo in another I presently don’t have the time to dig up.

            I wouldn’t want to listen to this anymore for 40 minutes than to “Pleiades Dust”, the fact that it at least doesn’t cause headaches being a poor compensation for all this lacks. “Interesting musicianship on display” is granted.

            1. Jerry Hauppa says:

              I normally don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about for half of your posts, but from what I’ve gathered, you don’t like it because it’s not aggressive enough. That is fair but it’s a criticism based on personal taste and judging the album for what it isn’t rather than for what it is. It is creating its essence through dread, not aggression. Your criticism is akin to millennials saying horror movies from the 70s aren’t scary because they aren’t littered with jump scares. Either way, this argument is pointless. Since you regularly give your two cents on every review with a counterpoint, why not write your own review of something?

              1. Rainer Weikusat says:

                […] but from what I’ve gathered, you don’t like it because it’s not aggressive enough.

                I don’t like this because it is repetitive, intentionally low-key tapestry serving a background for seemingly random shredding excursions in a well-known ‘superficially impressing’ style. I could name Viktor Smolski (among other things, ex-Rage) or Eric Johnson as another exponents of that. This style is a particularly at odds with “death metal” because of a harmonic pecularity I can’t really describe, except very indirectly and then, it would again be ‘misinterpreted’ as ‘not hardcore enough’ (aka ‘not pointlessly aggressive for the sake of it’), as if I wasn’t constantly complaining about that.

                I’m not interested in punk, especially not in “American hardcore punk”.

      2. Seth says:

        I think it’s worth showcasing bands which have potential, even if it hasn’t been completely realized. There’s a milieu of bands out there that have interesting, even original, ideas even if their intuitive understanding of musical syntax is half-formed. Even if they don’t develop as hoped, those pieces could eventually be developed upon by more skilled musicians in the future. New influences, even if their not complete albums, are going to be imperative to affect a positive mutation on the course of metal and escape rehashing the past.

    2. Concerned Reader says:

      Agreed. The micro-penis, i mean tonal, thing is virtually inaudible. It just seems to constitute a way to write directionless pieces using some more notes.

  8. Brock, I’m not sure how you define elitism, but having high standards for metal is not equivalent to “masquerading how elite and Hessian” you are. For the record, this website has sanctioned and proclaimed elitism numerous times:

    http://www.deathmetal.org/news/elitism-is-darwinism-for-heavy-metal/
    http://www.deathmetal.org/news/in-defense-of-elitism/
    http://www.deathmetal.org/news/why-i-am-a-douchebag-elitist/

    Anyway, my initial comment may have come off more aggressively than intended. As far as “DMU standards” go, I actually think the two of you have significantly raised the quality of articles on here.

    1. Brock Dorsey says:

      Yes, in other eras.

      But thank you for clarifying and please keep the feedback coming be it positive or negative!

  9. Trashchunk says:

    I like this band, website is better than it’s been in years, comments are still a try hard fag fest

  10. Belano says:

    Really great review: it tries to describe what the listener had encounter in the album and explain what he thinks is a band that shows potential. I think this is the way to go, even obviously if not all the readers are happy with the reviewer opinion. A good reviewer has to bet for what he thinks is good or valuable to listen, has to bet for promises don’t fulfilled yet, without considering what his audience think about it. That’s the real elitism, in criticizing and in writing music.

    In general, I really like the new direction of the site. So keep going. The only thing I’ve missed is the best albums year list. But, at the end of the day, I’m just an ordinary reader.

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