Thursday, November 4, 2010

Big Steven And His Disciples

SANCTA SANCTORUM – “The Shining Darkness” CD ’10 (Black Widow, Ita) – I have a problem. It’s something that I’ve lived with for many years now and while I haven’t mentioned it a whole lot lately, it’s probably something that’s gonna have to come to the fore. The problem that I have is not one with drink, smoke nor any other ingestible mind-altering substance…. That is to say, unless you consider sound waves entering the ear canal “ingesting.” In a sense, I suppose it is. With that in mind, then, it’s incumbent upon me to reveal the nature of this…ahem…issue of mine. The bottom line is that if I hear the name “Steve Sylvester” mentioned in connection to any sort of sound recording, I immediately get a glazed look in my eye. Things like my children eating, paying the mortgage and going to work recede immediately to some back corner of my mind. I then am seized by a fierce and determined nature and, armed with this passionate verve, I arise from my easy chair, stride to the front door and embark upon my quest to obtain whatever recorded medium it is that bears the name of this underground Italian metal legend. No one is safe. I’ve been known to behead elderly women, throw small children to wolves and raze entire cities if need be in order to insert a new SYLVESTER or DEATH SS disc into the Realm-O-Matic and hit “Play.” So, when my age-old buddy Mass (Black Widow Records) emailed me and asked if I’d like to receive a review copy of the new SANCTA SANCTORUM CD, a band fronted by none other than Mr. SYLVESTER himself, I did what only a man named Ray Dorsey would do. I hunched o’er the keyboard, grimaced like the old Horned One himself and typed those fateful words, “Send it now or die.” Well, I really didn’t do that, I actually said something like “Damn right, bro, send it on over!” Either way, “The Shining Darkness” is now in my hands, in the player and the story is…

You need this! If you have any affiliation at all with hard rock/metal and like your crush-dom dark and evil, you don’t have a whole section of the Bible if this isn’t on your shelf. With SANCTA SANCTORUM, our good ol’ STEVE has assembled quite a line-up! On drums is none other than another legend of the underground Italian scene, former DEATH SS and Paul Chain sticksman Thomas Hand Chaste. Bass is handled by another old cronie bassist Danny Hughes, while keys get their pounding by John Di Lallo. Last but not least, that six-string thing is delivered by a guy with what must be one of the most amazing names of all time, Frederick Dope. (Really!) The result of this meeting of the Italian musical minds is a landmark in heavy doom rawk that has scarcely left my player since it’s arrived. While there is a close connection to the dark, sinister metal of SYLVESTER’s DSS days and his solo output, the sound here also (and quite to my great pleasure!) veers even further into the realm of ‘70’s heavy progressive rawk than STEVE has ever gone. Di Lallo’s keys have a lot to do with this. Never becoming over-bearing, they blend into the mixture like a wonderful secret ingredient being folded into a recipe at just the right time. The added depth is something to behold throughout the album. Moreover, Dope’s (man I love that!) guitar is a massive acid tractor from pillar to post. Taking a cue from Iommi, but more so from the FIRST Sabbath record than any other, his sound is vintage yet timeless and his soloing is nasty as hell. Clearly this young guy has studied at the feet of the masters! Tying it all together of course, is SYLVESTER himself. This is a man who’s voice could never be called a model of technical schooling and yet like most of the true ‘70’s gods, his insistent mid-range poses more of a palpable threat, an distinct evil, than any death metal growler you’ve ever entrusted your cochlea to. STEVE’s big secret? What makes him so great? Melody! It’s never complicated but it's always there, and the man once again displays a singular talent for incorporating melodies of nearly pop-like hook into music that is devastatingly heavy and frankly evil. He simply gets better with age.

In short, “The Shining Darkness” is clearly one of the best releases in the Black Widow labels’s storied history, and that’s saying something! Leave it to STEVE SYLVESTER to put his name on such a release, that’s really no surprise. It’s another of his wonderful works that just keeps flowering more & more each time I hear it. Shine On You Crazy Diamond

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