Black Lotus Records promos sometimes have interesting liner notes. In the case of Sarissa they simply let bandleader/multi-instrumentalist Jim Selalmazidis tell us the long and winding road of a Greek band trying to stay stable and release albums. Turns out it is not that easy. Military obligations, line-up problems, label buSinsess decisions – all of this can lead to a 10 year window between the second, self-titled, album and the third follow-up, current Masters of Sins. The other bit I grasped from the story, it is rarely that I am younger than the bands I review, but it is the case with Sarissa as they started jamming back in 1985. Not known much outside Greece (I bet you never heard of them, and neither have I), the band is trying one more, probably last, time with the local Greek label. Old, however, does not mean stale with Sarissa. Seasoned and under control are more fitting epithets I can use to describe Masters of Sins.
To project epic and heavy music Sarissa relies on mostly mid-tempo and somewhat dark syncopated riffs. This page is clearly taken from the classic old-school, but the riffs are very precise and hold songs’ fabric completely together. With my wild guess of Jim Selalmazidis being the “jack of all trades” (guitars, bass, keys, synth) I would venture to assume that he wrote the whole album as well. Being the product of one person the songs bear some similar elements, especially in the structure and tone of those aforementioned riffs. This might be the reason the album settles down in a pattern somewhere by seventh or eighth track (Starvation, Deathdance).
Elements making the songs distinct from each other are tethered onto those heavy riffs. In The Ancient Land Falls subtle keyboard support is combined with more vocal harshness, and the lead growling from behind. Title track has symphonic elements, female backup Sinsging and extremely hooky and memorable chorus you want to play a few more times. Envious Critics is off-beat rhythmically providing nice change of pace and even has some deathly backup screams in the chorus. The Struggle starts out being acoustic and harmonized giving the listener an idea it might be the lone instrumental on the album, but then it quickly reverts to the overall Masters of Sins heavy classic style. The only total oddball is the closer Hypocrisy Crusade which has blastbeats (!), not too fast, but blastbeats nonetheless. Vocal parts on the song also tend to be more in your face. Sarissa does borrow from their Mediterranean background and colors some of the songs with distinct regional melodies and rhythms. I could swear that the opening of To These Powers (I Swear) is almost a classic sirtaki dance. Nice touch!
Nick Iglezos turns in mostly steady vocal performance. Wherever he lets his voice soar (The Ancient Land Falls, Deathdance) he makes a pretty good impression. Some high notes are here as well (Bleed Till the End, title track), but more voice variations would be welcome. With such variations songs like To These Powers (I Swear) and Masters of Sins would be even more memorable. I don’t know whether it is a self-conscious reservation or Nick’s vocal limitations but it feels he has been reigned in.
Jim Selalmazidis is obviously an accomplished and technical guitarist. Throughout the album he throws in long leads providing Masters of Sins with progressive elements. These leads are always well executed and add overall melodicism, but might cause criticism with some looking for just more straightforward numbers.
Produced in the band’s own studio I really wanted to comment on the warm and full bass sound for both drums and bass guitar. The album is a pleasure on the ear whether you like the genre or not.
Solid, if not spectacular, performance of Sarissa could be recommended to the fans of pre-Hammerfall power metal (Liege Lord) and probably Jag Panzer as Sarissa displays quite a bit of guitar dexterity so popular with the Colorado masters. Let’s hope the band sticks around longer this time.
Killing Songs :
To These Powers (I Swear), The Ancient Land Falls, Masters of Sins, Envious Critics, The Struggle
|Alex quoted 74 / 100|
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