1. Hypocrisy 2. The Memory 3. Sinister Nation 4. Reflections of Old
One of my biggest problems with the US black metal scene is a complete lack of originality and quality. It was great when bands played repetitive, evil sounding songs in the late 80’s and early 90’s that displayed little to no creativity because the genre was brand new – everyone was hearing something very unique that had never been done before. Poor production quality made the music sound a bit darker and gave it a cool atmosphere. Fast-forward fifteen years. There’s a new band coming out with a demo playing EXACTLY that same style that has been done to perfection many times over. Unless they are really outstanding, they won’t strike me as anything worthwhile. It seems that for the past five years or so the United States has produced nothing but that. Oh, wait a minute…. There’s this new band Sothis from Los Angeles who are just what this country needed.
Sothis released their first demo (self-titled) in January of 2005. They’ve taken all the best aspects from traditional black metal and combined them with some other interesting elements. The result is an excellent four-track demo overflowing with potential. I’d like to be able to slap the label of “symphonic black” on them and leave it at that. However, there’s a lot more going on than just that. Symphonic elements are definetley present, with keyboardist Asperia making some great sounds. She plays a lot of backing organ and symphony chords, but also creates some interesting ambient effects as well. Drogoth’s voice generally stays at the same mid-range screech, with occasional variations to a deeper growl. Scathe, who plays guitars, often backs him up, sometimes with beautiful clean vocals. These give the music an almost epic touch. In addition, the guitars riffs in general are usually not very melodic, giving a little raw edge to the music.
“Hypocrisy,” the title track, starts off this demo with a bang. These guys don’t mess around – right away my ears were pummeled with intense riffing and some very impressive drumming courtesy of Dross. There isn’t really an intro either – the vocals start right away. On “The Memory,” Sothis slow things up a bit, playing at a slightly slower but still exhilarating pace. The guitars are probably the most varied on this track – a few short solos are even thrown in. Like I said before, Sothis aren’t held by any strict boundaries and aren’t afraid to show off their diversity and talent, and this is a perfect example. Next up comes “Sinister Nation,” where the keyboards are quite haunting. Some intense, overbearing synthetic organ starts off the song and continues throughout the track. It’s definetley the harshest and most evil-sounding some on the demo, where the band’s old school influences really show. To finish things up is “Reflections of Old,” which is my personal favorite track. It’s their longest and most thought-provoking song. Drogoth has his best performance here, carrying out grim screeches for extended periods of time. During the chorus, Scathe does some of his magnificent backing vocals, and the effect achieved is immense. I almost felt like I was listening to a band with some Viking influences for a second – I hadn’t seen the slightest trace of any anywhere on the demo previously. Now we have some dual screech/clean action carried out in epic fashion. I was instantly reminded of Vintersorg and Lars Nedland going at it in a newer Borknagar song.
Sothis have the talent and the passion to be a very successful band. They’re exactly what the US black metal scene needs. They’re fresh, exciting, and ambitious. Any fan of black metal, old or new, will enjoy their music because of the fact that they take so much from both styles. Hints of Emperor and Mayhem are present alongside those of Stormlord and Dimmu Borgir. “Sothis” can be purchased from the band’s website, www.Sothis.us, for $8. If you don’t feel like spending the money, you can download the demo in full off the site – either way it’s definetley worth it.
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