Formed in 2014 in Inland Empire California, Black Metallers Sicarius might not be a house hold name despite their 2017 critically acclaimed debut album “Serenade of Slitting Throats” being hailed by Decibel Magazine for “combining black metal with a violent immediacy and pairing it with a bloody, corpse painted aesthetic” but they could actually be considered a super group. Why? Well, they feature Enterprise Earth drummer Brandon “BZ” Zackey who has also appeared in Headless Monarch and formerly Nocturnal Symphony. Add to that ex-Carnifex and Ruines ov Abaddon guitarist who has also played live extensively with As Blood Runs Black guitarist Travis “Grimnir” Whiting and None of the Living Remain vocalist Kurt Karcass and you have a trio who you might be more familiar with. Bassist Carnage and second guitarist Merihim round out the group with debut EP “Scorch the Earth” appeared in August 2015. 5 years on their sophomore album “God Of Dead Roots” which was produced by Mick Kenney of Anaal Nathrakh (Benediction, Empyrean Throne) at Barracks Studio has appeared on the black horizon with a cover once again from Misanthropic Art (Behemoth, Pig Destroyer, Dismember, Hate Eternal).
Sicarius whose name means contract killer or assassin in Latin have taken influence from and pay homage to classic Black Metal bands of the past on their previous releases and from the start of the album in “βία” which in Greek mythology was the personification of force, anger and raw energy the Californians continue down that muddy track as Zackey hammers the kit in furious acid rain like bursts. Depicting the violent side of human nature in it’s purest most primal form lyrically, musically it has bludgeoning intensity of Northwind Wolves and Bathory. Salvo after salvo of blast beats rip through “Open Fire” like a you’ve just entered a Warzone with vicious intent that only slows for a Black Metal version of a breakdown that then flies off into a Thrash inspired whammy bar solo in an epic modernization that declares the band not afraid to play with fire and introduce their own elements. “Immortal Plight” seethes and writhes with dark atmospheres and hateful intent while an off kilter Blackened Thrash solo is the injection of venom from a snake bite. A bloodcurdling roar from Karcass brings in the furious “Culling the Heedless” with Speed Metal leanings as the band fly by the seat of their pants while keeping a sense of control, despite Zackey’s frenetic short bursts of relentless battery. Again the sweeping movement from raw edged Black Metal to Blackend Thrash appears through the song with a final slower section of solo and riffery that you might not expect here but wouldn’t be a miss in the work of the other bands the players originate in.
The slow down at the end of “Culling the Heedless” sets up the slower burn start of “Nekromanteia” which doesn’t see any of the throat shredding dark vocals until the two minute mark. Changing their approach and introducing a creepy harsh whispered spoken word gives the eerie haunt of a horror film build up before the furious closing becomes the violent strike of the beast. November 2019 single “A Practiced Hand” might have been left as a standalone piece but instead sits pride of place at the table in the center of the album, an axis up which the other songs rest. A fine piece of Blackened Thrash, it contains all the elements of the albums best work with a bleak tone and driving drum patterns, while some breakneck tempo shifts shatter all glass within thirty feet of the record being played. “Pagan Vestige(s)” was the third and final foreboding and forceful warning of what to expect from the album when it was launched like a Viking destroyer into the seven seas. The creepy short lead parts are pure evil while the false ending before the second wave may lull you into the false sense of security that the enemy no longer awaits.
Title track “God of Dead Roots” returns to more traditional Black Metal territory with a thunderous and relentless drum sound and regulation chord changes. The song has an epic quality that you might expect from the genre pioneers with nods to 1349 and Wolvhammer firmly on it’s blood soaked sleeve and makes good use of it’s players skills by crafting something that is epic and engaging musically as much as it is lyrically. If we are indeed slaves to our primal instincts as Karcass suggests in the press statement quotes that came with the album, then what better way to celebrate that than with this? Tasting like it has been fermented to perfection, “Scythe Bearers” breaks the blunt force trauma with a short atmospheric part before the vengeful attack returns with jackhammer footwork and tirades of black plague flies flowing from Karcass’s mouth. Album closer “Tombs” isn’t the 13 minute plus epic that the track listing might suggest. In old school fashion, it’s a near 5 minute affair that then fades out before 4 and a half minutes of silence makes way for a cover of “Raise The Dead” by Bathory. “Tombs” keeps up the frenetic intensity of Sicarius sound while introducing some lyrics that might be found on written by Glenn Danzig. Indeed there are some riff parts that sound like Black Metal versions of Misfits progressions which seems odd and shouldn’t work on paper but does in practice while the creepy solo to fade would be a fitting place to close. Paying tribute to one of their major influences in Bathory as good as it is, is perhaps a touch obvious but it has to be said that Sicarius do a bloody good version of the classic [8/10]
Culling the Heedless
A Practiced Hand
God of Dead Roots
Raise The Dead (Bathory cover)
“God Of Dead Roots” by Sicarius is out now via M-Theory Audio and is available over at bandcamp