One of many promising acts who fell by the wayside in the early 1990, Swedish melodic death/black band Sarcasm made a somewhat unexpected return in 2015 with the long overdue release of their 1994 debut full-length Burial Dimensions. Then in 2017 came their return proper with Within in the Sphere of Ethereal Minds, an aesthetically pleasing marred by haphazard assembly. With Esoteric Tales of the Unserene (2019), Sarcasm return to previously explored territories; maybe in the hope of striking a better equilibrium between the style’s main constituents: black-, death- and heavy metal.
As veterans of the scene, Sarcasm are obviously well-versed in the musical vocabulary cultivated by acts like At the Gates, Dissection and Sacramentum. They offer a faithful, slightly more technically-oriented rendition of the classic Swedish sound, where darkness, folk-derived melancholia and unrelenting force merge into a powerful yet contemplative expression. With Esoteric Tales of the Unserene being a more stringent and direct proposition in terms of composition, there is now less room for the mind to wander, which in the context of the band’s previous efforts should be taken as a positive remark. Musical ideas are less ambiguous and are hammered home effectively.
However, with repeated listening comes the nagging sensation that something is missing. Songs often start out strong and proceed fluidly, but lack that final, revelatory piece of the puzzle that made albums like Far Away From the Sun such an exhilarating experience. Moreover, while there’s plenty of beautiful and evocative melodies scattered throughout the album, they are bogged down by a tendency towards overt sentimentality or plain obviousness. The otherworldly ambience is shattered time and time again, and no amount of technical brilliance or aesthetic rigueur will be enough to bring it back to life.
This could be recommended to those who can’t get enough of the classic Swedish black/death metal SOUND, but really there’s plenty of better options available. Instead of spending your time and money on a band that have repeatedly failed to deliver a convincing product, why not check out some of the lesser known bands in the No Fashion Records-catalogue.