Sadus – The Shadow Inside


Many onlookers will know Sadus as the band of Steve DiGiorgio, who has played in some of the greatest metal acts of all time, including Death, Obituary and Testament. He recorded bass on the last Sadus record in 2006, but no longer has a role in the group. This did not deter Nuclear Blast from signing the outfit for their first studio recording in seventeen years. The band that produced the heaviest thrash metal at the tail-end of the 1980s and had an influence on the second wave of death metal are minor legends, but you seldom see their name in the album-of-the-decade polls. Why do people forget about them?

Now a duo consisting of Darren Travis (guitar/bass/vocals) and Jon Allen (drums), Sadus return as a classic thrash metal unit, shorn of their death metal roots, and enamoured with traditional metal as much as the Big Four. It’s not as predictable as you think. Delay-heavy guitars glisten in clean mode as a faint Kraftwerk synth flutters in the background in opener, ‘First Blood’. Then comes the homage to Metallica’s ‘Creeping Death’ to rouse you from your contemplation like a home intruder brandishing an axe. Listen to the ritualistic single kick beat in the intro – this could be a warm-up for an arena concert with Iron Maiden. Did Sadus once play death metal? They don’t anymore. This is thrash metal circa 1985.

Throughout most of this record, Darren Travis sounds like a caricature of a pantomime villain but with an agonising bout of sciatica. ‘Scorched and Burnt’ is a more extreme version of the spectacular groove riffing on Countdown to Extinction (think ‘Architecture of Aggression’). Here, Travis holds on to the chorus notes as if having his kidneys removed by an imposter surgeon. His axemanship will bring out the air guitarist in you when ‘It’s the Sickness’ gets into gear. Jon Allen follows his lead like an overzealous bodyguard. The bass is loud enough in the mix to vibrate through your wrists but not intrusive enough to displace the crunch of the high-treble guitars.

Returning after a long period of inactivity obliges Sadus to announce their comeback with an emphasis on substance over style. This is understandable when you have something to prove and want to be taken seriously. But the forty-eight minutes here present a few difficulties that you’ll struggle to ignore. ‘Anarchy’ lives up to its title as a relentless attack of speed and fumes, but you’ve heard it a million times on better albums. ‘The Devil in Me’ is chivalrous heavy metal dressed up in the Metallica riffing of …And Justice for All. Sadus need to scale back the running length of these songs. The latter makes six minutes feel like eight. Travis pushes his voice to many places, often between a mangled maintenance man and a vomiting soldier rooting for his gas mask. Close your eyes and you could be listening to a Vio-lence LP from their major label years.

An indisputable strength of The Shadow Inside is its ambition. Travis and Allen are never content to dash off a verse-chorus song with spectacular guitar solos. ‘Ride the Knife’ is the type of song you can stream through your headphones as you walk among the catacombs of Paris in sunglasses. Like all heavy metal heroes, the guitar is a deadly battlefield weapon in the hands of Darren Travis. See if you can hold back from squaring up to your enemy with his riffs flowing through your veins on the likes of ‘Pain’ and ‘No Peace’. The latter ought to fail. Manowar on steroids sounds too absurd to consider, but Sadus give you a glimpse of this with a straight face.

This album is like an extra helping of pasta on your plate. The steam tickles your nostrils, and the soft textures excite your taste buds, but you find your appetite diminish after devouring three-quarters of it. Riffs blaze like burning coals, but you take them for granted after thirty minutes. A few too many of these cuts are what vintage Megadeth would sound like if you asked them to write in the style of Obituary. That shouldn’t be a problem, and it isn’t most of the time. But it offers few surprises.

The Shadow Inside is far more enjoyable than seventy percent of the atavistic crap that passes for death metal these days, but it’s not a death metal album. It’s a thrash record. The closing title-track sees Sadus embrace the drama with a strained voice and lacerated guts. It’s a mid-tempo spike of heavy metal intimidation with much to merit a raised fist and a vow to listen to their back catalogue. This band deserve wider recognition, but they need to be more brutal when it comes to trimming the excesses of their music.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 17/11/2023

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: First Blood, Scorched and Burnt, Pain

Suggested Further Listening: Vio-lence – Oppressing the Masses (1990), Legion of the Damned – The Poison Chalice (2023), Dark Angel – Time Does Not Heal (1991)