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Finis Malorum (1994)
 

Finis Malorum is the first proper release from Sweden's Sacramentum. This E.P. was recorded in Dan Swanö's Unisound Studios. It was released by the band in 1994, and later repressed by Adipocere in 1995. I first discovered this band through their debut album, Far Away From the Sun, so I expected a similar sound when I finally ran across this recording. While the feeling is there, it doesn't quite match up.

"Moonfog" slowly fades in, before erupting with a violent fury. The sound is a little thicker and less cold than the following album. A significant part of this may be related to the drums. It would seem that Swanö's questionable production skills came into play once again, resulting in the drums being too loud in the mix. As far as the guitar melodies go, they're not too far removed from the material on the full-length. It's not merely fast-paced all the way through; the sound is very dynamic, with a lot of old school melodies.

The next song is "Travel With the Northern Winds", which begins with a strange riff, before going into something more traditional. It doesn't last long, before a short bass break and a new riff comes in. This song is a bit disjointed, as it just doesn't flow very well. There are some good ideas to be found, but it seems the band can't quite figure out what direction they want to go in. The Black Metal riffs give a dark feeling to the song, which is interrupted by frequent Death Metal riffs (and drumming).

"Devide et Impera" starts with another odd riff. It soon transitions to a more melodic riff, and then to an epic and atmospheric section that begins to send a bit of a chill over you. The lead solo does well to add to this feeling. There are still some Death Metal bits, later in the song, that kind of detract from the feeling, but it's nothing too bad. There's a strong traditional Metal vibe to the solos, which is a plus.

This is followed by "Pagan Fire", which rages forth from the start, and then goes into a Death Metal riff. There's this constant struggle between Black and Death Metal on this release, and it tends to have a detrimental effect on the overall product. Despite the distraction provided by the fact that the drums are too high in the mix, there are some really good melodies here. Where the band seems to shine are when they stick to either Black Metal or even the more old school riffs. The Death Metal aspect should have been dropped already, and it is a good thing that they realized that before recording their first album.

The E.P. concludes with "Finis Malorum", which is a brief outro that consists of a somber guitar melody and a distant spoken-word passage. Soon, some more melodic riffs emerge, accompanied by drums, before fading into the nothingness.

This is not an essential release, unless you are a hardcore fan. The thing that drew me to Sacramentum, in the first place, was the cold Black Metal sound found on Far Away From the Sun, owing some influences to Dissection's Storm of the Light's Bane. Finis Malorum possesses vry few of the qualities that I appreciate, as it regards this band, and a few more that just don't seem to fit. It's not a bad release, by any means, but it struggles to hold up under close scrutiny.
 
(3 Jan. 2010)

 
Far Away From the Sun (1996)
 
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Sacramentum is from Göteborg, but certainly does not have anything to do with the sound that city is known for. This is cold Black Metal in the vein of early Dissection. Far Away From the Sun is their first L.P. and was recorded in Unisound Studios in mid-1995. The production is much stronger than some Black Metal albums recorded in the same studio; i.e. Those of the Unlight, Opus Nocturne, etc. The band is represented very well here.

The album begins furiously, with no intros or anything of that nature. Within the first minute, the skill of these musicians becomes very apparent. The music is violent and melodic at the same time. The atmosphere is cold and nocturnal and is best listened to on a Winter night. Many of the songs begin very fast but the melodies always find their way through the chaos. The tremolo riffs are all around, and dominate the album. The guitar tone is not quite like any other album I have heard. The song structures are more complicated than some bands, with an abundance of tempo changes and atmosphere. Vocally, I have to make the comparison to Jon Nödtveidt. The vocals are in much the same style. There are also brief bits of clean, spoken lines which remind me of Necrophobic's The Nocturnal Silence. The melodies have a classical feel to them, making this album a dark journey through ancient times forgotten. Some old school 80s drum beats are utilized, particularly on "When Night Surrounds Me."

I would compare this to Dissection, Necrophobic (Darkside), and Sorhin; however that is not to say that this sounds just like any of those bands. All too often, it seems that Sacramentum have fallen victim to the label of "Dissection-clone" and this is obviously promoted by those who are too ignorant to see that this record stands on its own, despite being somewhat similar to the aforementioned band. Definitely, fans of the more melodic and nocturnal Swedish Black Metal (as opposed to the blasting, lifeless garbage coming out of there now) will definitely appreciate this. I have to wonder if this album influenced Sargeist at all, because I can even hear similarities there as well.

This album is so good that I cannot recommend individual songs. This is something that needs to be experienced in its entirety. Far Away From the Sun is another Swedish classic of Cold Nocturnal Black Metal.
 
(14 Feb. 2008)

 
 

The Coming of Chaos is quite a disappointment. Sacramentum's sophomore effort was released on Century Media, in September 1997. Absent is the frozen atmosphere and majestic guitar melodies that hearkened back to Dissection's Storm of the Light's Bane. In fact, the cold Black Metal feeling is almost completely gone. This record features more of a Death Metal vibe mixed in, as well as some typical Gothenburg riffs that do nothing but make the album seem more generic.

Perhaps, the band wanted to distance themselves from the constant comparisons to Dissection (though one can still hear some elements of that band's style, here) that came as a result of the overall approach and sound of Far Away From the Sun. The icy feeling is gone and the music just lacks the same type of cohesion that it once had. For some reason, this record gives the impression of being more mundane and directionless and befitting a tag such as 'extreme Metal', since there are a variety of styles being mixed, with none being particularly strong enough to really give this a definite character. Nearly everything about this is boring. The thrash riffs lack any real energy. The Death Metal parts do very little to create a dark or ominous feeling and there is hardly any Black Metal left. The drumming takes a much more active role, driving the songs as much or more than the guitars, in some cases. Somehow, after making such a brilliant debut, Sacramentum decided to throw it all away.

The production is yet another problem that has a very detrimental effect on The Coming of Chaos. The sound is way too slick and modern. The drumming, in particular, is very clear and high in the mix. Things are just much too crisp. The vocals possess less reverb and are a bit too clear, for some reason. The guitars are kind of buried under the rest and have a flat tone. Far Away From the Sun featured an icy cold sound but here it comes off as lifeless and uninspired.

The Coming of Chaos is such a departure from Sacramentum's first album that it almost sounds like a different band. Switching from Black Metal to the standard Gothenburg sound was a huge mistake, though it could be that they simply had no vision of their own and could only follow what others were doing. While there is still enough of a Dissection influence to possibly interest some, this record is hardly worth listening to. Avoid this and stick with its predecessor.
 
(7 Jan. 2012)

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