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Vader - Sothis EP (reissue) Review

by Mark Hensch

Few things in this world could be more difficult than understanding just how much impact a band like Vader has had on the international metal scene. Formed in 1986, one would never expect a band of unknowns from Cold War era Poland to set the death metal community on fire. With the Communists never very receptive to free expression (though there were many instances of change around this time in Poland) and the Western World being very conservative (Reagan, Thatcher, and others were all in power) it's hard to imagine ANY death metal band making any kind of significant splash, let alone one that was spawned behind the totalitarian shade of the Iron Curtain. Vader was just that band, and now, over a decade later, the amount of influence Vader have wrought is starting to make itself felt.

Like most death acts of the time, Vader recorded demo after demo, EP after EP, all of them flying away at maximum velocity due to tape traders and underground merchants. The 1990 Morbid Reich demo, a simple six song affair on Carnage Records, went on to become one of the bestselling metal demos ever, with over 10,000 copies sold. In 1994, the band killed some time between their debut full-length in 1993's The Ultimate Incantation and 1995's sophomore effort De Profundis with this tiny little EP, the rare Sothis.

Originally released on a now defunct Polish label, Sothis had a first run of a measly 500 copies, and quickly sold out. Reissued in 1996 by Repulse Records (and again in 1998 by Austria's Metal Mind Records) this new reissue features twenty three minutes of remastered Vader, then a young band still finding their signature "extreme thrash" sound.

Nothing new is added to this version, but in honesty, the material in-and-off itself is so rare (not to mention so wicked) that listeners won't care, even if they should have somehow obtained a previous edition of the EP. The sound is crystal clear, the music intense, and the musicians are all spot-on with technical, furious brutality. What more could you want?

Nowadays, some have faulted Vader for their rapid output and similar-sounding albums (I prefer to think they're consistent, not unlike Amon Amarth or Bolt Thrower), but on Sothis the band has some very interesting choices which shows that Vader do experiment, and that they in fact do it very well. "Hymns to the Ancient Ones" is a great example of this fact, the hideous Lovecraftian incantations covered in a bleak swirl of grotesque noise. "Sothis" is where the album really blows your brains out, as utterly bitching death metal assaults your senses and your brain is turned into mush courtesy of the band's pummeling percussion. The remastering has really brought out the sinister crunch to these songs, and from here on out it is apparent just how badass Vader was even this early in their career. "De Profundis" comes right off the end of "Sothis," a pulsing drum beat mixed with down-tuned guitar menace all of which leads into the grim, slicing fury of "The Vision and the Voice." My favorite song on the EP, "The Vision and the Voice" shows Vader hitting massive drum fills, blasting portions, and oddly wavering thrash arrangements. The tremolo refrains on this are exquisite, and wait till you hear that inhuman growl mid-song....it will rip you limb from limb! "The Wrath" doesn't allow any quarter for rest, the song going right into fully-fleshed massacres of thrashing death metal with undertones of the band's Slavic blasphemy intact. "R'lych" is a Lovecraft-worshipping ambient piece that is oddly spooky, and leads into an utterly unexpected cover of Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath." I was totally unsure of how a band like Vader would pull that one off, but somehow the band makes it work, without copying it note for note either. In some ways, the foreboding doom that the band captures here is actually even darker than the original song, and you can rest assured Vader really stretches the scope of their eclectic sound here.

Some twelve years later, the Sothis EP still resonates with a person born long after playing death metal in Poland ceased to be a revolutionary measure. Despite all this, there is no denying how well-rounded, impressive, and outright righteous the death metal fury it is. And if you still don't believe me, just take a look at the brothers-in-arms spawned by Vader's trailblazing work; Polish death acts like Behemoth, Yattering, Dies Irae, Vesania, and the like are considered some of the best in the world. If you like any of those bands, check out Vader, and see where the roots of today's thriving Eastern European metal scene were first laid. This is a worthy reissue fit for any metalhead's collection.

1. Hymns to the Ancient Ones
2. Sothis
3. De Profundis
4. The Vision and the Voice
5. The Wrath
6. R'lych
7. Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath Cover)

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