Celestial Sanctuary – Soul Diminished


Cambridge death metal quartet, Celestial Sanctuary, are all the rage right now with the likes of Banger TV praising them and critics queuing up to proclaim them as the future of the genre. We at Scream Blast Repeat could not be immune to the approbation flowing their way, and it’s easy to see why people are excited about this band.

Modern death metal these days is split between those that like the technical grooves of seven-string guitars and those that like to go back to the roots of death metal with a dose of hardcore punk sprinkled on top. The former worship their blast beats, the latter prefer d-beat rhythms. Celestial Sanctuary avoid both these camps. You’ll find no punk in this music, nor do they mask their weaknesses as songwriters by smothering their sound in lightning speed drum work. Like Baest, these boys want you to feel the slime between your fingers as the singer vomits the lyrics through his throat. Indeed, Thomas Cronin’s vocals sound like the pain of a man refusing to confess under a hideous torture regime. The title track is pure death-doom that alternates between slow two-beat drum patterns and double-kick attacks. It’s raw and primitive enough to sound like a horde of cannibals with access to electricity, but it also showcases some colossal riffery. ‘Wretched habits’ is another one that presents the paradox of primal noise and vintage doom riffs that Zac Wylde would love to own. Chicago legends, Trouble, are just as much of an influence here as Obituary.

Grave Miasma’s latest album won much acclaim but lapsed into tedium at critical points of the record. Celestial Damage have no such problem on Soul Diminished. They might be more ponderous and slower in their bludgeoning offensive, but they’re heavier than the Covid-19 virus that finished off Peter Sutcliffe in prison last year. ‘Suffer Your Sentience’ is a cadaverous affair with slimy guitars and a latent anthemic quality to it. The 200bpm thrust of ‘Yearn for the Rot’ might be one of the few times they embrace the power of throttling speed, but that shows how adept they are at guessing the listener’s needs. You can absorb this type of death metal all day without glancing at your watch or sighing through your nose.

Of course, no album can escape scrutiny without mentioning the opening track. ‘Rid the Gormless’ is a reverb-soaked cacophony of agonising roars and vibrating bass lines complimenting the crunchy guitars. It’s like recovering from a near-death experience rather than undergoing one, except you feel your eye sockets bleeding. The lyrics hint at a perfidious pleasure in watching global warming bring the world closer to its eventual demise, although the morbid imagery used to describe this inevitable inferno belongs in a seventeenth century charnel house as much as a coal-powered fire station. This is not party music. “The earth is void of life/ The earth has end in sight/ We’re bathed in blackened light/ Celebrate the dawn of human plight,” roars Thomas Cronin on ‘Mass Extinction’. Images of kids in gasmasks playing hopscotch in an abandoned aircraft hangar come to mind.

Celestial Sanctuary prove once again that you don’t need inhumane speed and a thousand notes in each song to subjugate the listener. They may exaggerate the malevolence of their message and take pride in the savagery of their reverb-heavy audio assault, but they always remember that we death metal fans enjoy the air guitar as much as the claw-finger poses and gurning face shapes.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 26/03/2021

Record Label: Redefining Darkness Records / Church Road Records

Standout tracks: Soul Diminished, Wretched Habits, Suffer Your Sentience

Suggested Further Listening: Baest – Necrosapiens (2021), Grave Miasma – Odori Sepulcrorum (2013), Vacuous – Katabasis EP (2020)