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Sadomasochism - Worship the Dark

Picture this. You wake up one day in a new hometown, a medium sized city of moderate beliefs, surrounded like a besieged fort on all sides by town after town of strict, conservative dwellings. Even in the most open-minded of areas, your home will always represent tradition, purity, and the Christian ideal. To be anything else is met with severe distrust, even fear. This great new residence of yours is my home, West Michigan in general, and the Grand Rapids area in particular. A place where one strip of street (ironically enough the one I live not too far from) has the world's record for most churches to street length ratio. It is also a place where music is always safe, poppy, and easy-to-swallow, with even the heavier stuff being Christian, melodic, or lame, posturing hardcore (usually all of the above actually). I tell you this to make you understand something...

When I first heard Sadomasochism, I couldn't believe my ears. Here was a band, living in my hometown, playing brutal death metal not unlike Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Death, and maybe even some Immolation or Nile. Lyrically, they sang about gore, blasphemy, and evil, like Chris Barnes jamming with Nattefrost from Carpathian Forest or something like that. Apparently, few others could understand what they were hearing either. Since their inception in 1999, the band has seen so many ups, downs, and neutrals in their storied career, you wouldn't even believe it!

It was this disgusting, morbid bloodlust which made the band sound so furious to my jaded ears I think. Much earlier I had given up on finding quality metal in my region, but a chance encounter with their roadie at an old dayjob proved me very wrong. Here's a band with nothing but gore, sweat, viscera, blood, more blood, and tears. In an age of extreme metal conformity, they make even their death metal sound fresh; little blastbeating exists, and the band likes muscular, tight riffing intermingled with technical flaying and surgical precision on the guitar frets. Though Sadomasochism disbanded in 2004, the legacy they left on my town's scene cannot and will not be denied. Now reformed as Flesh for the Beast, I'm going to spend the next few weeks preaching the gospel of heavy, inspired by a band who doesn't do anything but live it.

Released in 2003, Worship the Dark was just shy of forty minutes, self-produced, and sold only in local shops and on tour. The disc is an utter holocaust of classic-era, Floridian death metal ala Cannibal Corpse, Death, and the like, mixing over-the-top extremity with immense musical talent. The album (which was soon followed by a slew of touring and live shows which are still legendary in this area today) was so popular in secret that the band shocked everyone by winning the first "Battle of the Bands" contest by local radio station 94.5 WKLQ. In a town dominated by bad Tool/Disturbed clones and Still Remains, it was very vindicating seeing a band like this win. They've been in the finals several times since.

Worship the Dark itself is even better, a trip backwards in time to when people where just realizing cookie monster growls were a possibility, and guitars could stomp chests like an angry bull elephant. The disc starts off with the cinematic "Intro," a brief interlude that has also been used to warm up their live crowds as they make their way onstage. With deep growls, somber wails, and slowly rising menace, this piece of Dimmu Borgir worthy theatrics raises gooseflesh as listeners slowly begin to anticipate the carnage they're undoubtedly in for. "Worship the Dark" (recently added to the Flesh for the Beast live set) swings into your jaw with sledgehammer abandon, the blunt force of alternating riffs and hyperblasting leading into a sort of thick, grooving dementia. Vocalist John Rios shows he is no slouch on the mic, his insanely guttural growls sounding crisp and major-league.

By the time the band has cracked out razor-sharp lead after lead, you won't believe how many times you've been violated by purist, excellent death metal. "He Who Hangs Dead...." starts off with a slick drum roll courtesy of skinsman wizard Jason Kandea, followed by some chest-thumping rhythms and eventually straightforward, circle-pit inspiring death metal thrashing. It is definitely tighter than a noose and about six times more necksnapping; it is apparent just how talented Sadomasochism was at writing normal time-signature, straightforward headbanging heavy metal. The fantastic "Maggots Feed" is actually one of my favorite death metal tracks ever; hang-nail riffs, tons of pinch harmonics, incredible fills on the drums, wicked slap-bass, it has it all. Listen to the throat-shredding growls by song's end and tell me I'm wrong. It even features the most boneshattering breakdown I've ever heard outside of Pig Destroyer. "Intestinal Remains" starts off with a sinister sample about the injuries sustained by Jesus, and then launches into a hail of bullets, its submachine gun drummming and explosive riffing pumping you full of holes. "Baptized in Urine" drips disgustingly filthy riffs and burning, fiery leads all over you, before launching into shockingly majestic guitar hero soloing. A cliffhanger ensues and the trademark roar of "JESUS IS A LIE" tailspins the song downward into damned, doomy riffage ala Immolation's early work. I'd argue "Regius" is the best track here, as tons of galloping chug jousts with technical wizardry. Some of the grooves here are so coffin-deep you'll feel buried alive not only by their abysmal depth but the avalanche of wicked guitars that falls down on your skull over and over again. Just as you're entirely entombed, there emerges from a cavern a wailing, hellish solo that is probably the best thing on the entire CD. "Infected Death" chimes with moody church bells and howling lamentations, the dreary murk soon to be raped and killed by concise, streamlined death metal that would make Suffocation very proud. "Obsessed with the Dead" grooves with an almost Mastodon-worthy chug and some proggier leads, a sense of real claustrophobia being induced. The song's body, a skeletal corpse of charred black riffing and spine-ripping plowing, will get blood pumping for pretty much anyone anywhere. The grotestque "F**king Her Rotting Corpse" is perhaps one of the most vomit-inducing love stories ever told, and adds a unique twist to the band's typical gore/blood/gore vernacular. The riffs, tempo-shifts, and rhythm section are also top-notch, and one can't shake the feeling the band isn't any weaker ten songs in then where they were at song number one.

"Eternal Pits of Damnation" slays with technical bass divebombs, furious guitars, and what has been an album of some of the most jaw-droppingly complex drumming you're likely to hear from an unsigned metal band, what with how organic, crushing, and sharp the drums sound. Wholly righteous stuff this.

Essentially, what this disc boils down to is amazingly fresh death metal, played by death metal fans, for death metal fans. There are no misconceptions or silly posturing here, no one promising new ideas or innovation. And really, who needs it? When blood, sex, violence, and the like get boring, what will we watch on the news at night? Basically, if you are one of those sick people who enjoy gore-splattered trips down memory lane to the days of Florida's upstart death metal scene, look no further. Sadomasochism never got their due and have released an underground masterpiece. Perfect score.

1. Intro
2. Worship the Dark
3. He Who Hangs Dead...
4. Maggots Feed
5. Intestinal Remains
6. Baptized in Urine
7. Regius
8. Infected Death
9 Obssessed with the Dead
10. F**king her Rotting Corpse
11. Eternal Damnation



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