CD Review: SICKENING HORROR - When Landscapes Bled Backwards
Most people will know Sickening Horror for drummer George Kollias, of Nile notoriety. This is good in that his work on the Greek band's full-length debut, When Landscapes Bled Backwards, is much more interesting than in Nile. This is bad in that Kollias has left the band – understandably. When someone offers you an ithyphallic full-time job, you take it.
Sickening Horror are on Neurotic, and, through distribution, Willowtip. Thus, technical death metal is the order of the day. Like Immolation, Sickening Horror have a knack for nagging dissonance, little bends and rakes that dig in as nasty hooks. But while Immolation's dissonance is "groaning," Sickening Horror's is in a higher register, "keening."
Ilias Daras' bass work evokes Cryptopsy – loose, jazzy, poking out of the mix. Often, the bass roams around, shadowing the guitars, then muttering petulantly to itself. But while Cryptopsy's bass brilliance comes in brief bursts, Daras is all over the place. "Virus Detected" has a wonderfully chaotic conversation between whimsical bass and chewy, atonal guitars; Cryptopsy don't let themselves smile half as much. Daras even contributes a cinematic piano interlude, "All Perceived Nothing." Odd, but a highlight.
This record isn't heavy, though Kollias unloads plenty of speedy blastbeats. Unlike his full-scale assault in Nile, his playing here is colorful, almost jazzy. "Imprisoned in Apocalypse" has a strange bridge that's almost drum 'n' bass, which Kollias peppers with cymbal clutches and off-kilter accents. "An Eerie Aspect of Us…Drowning" has an eerie half-time passage which bobs along on pulsing bass lines and Kollias' surprisingly patient timekeeping. At the end, he finally breaks into tasty fills and ghost notes; he's so much more than just Nile's resident athlete.
Frontman/guitarist George Antipatis has complained about this album's production, but it's appropriately crisp and dry. His interest in industrial music comes through in tasteful electronic touches scattered throughout. Neil Kernon's mix isn't as gargantuan as his work with, say, Cannibal Corpse or Nevermore. But it's quite musical, giving each instrument plenty of room. Surreal, atypical lyrics ("As I watch the darkest pages of what seems / To be the so-called diary of mind's reflections / The only relief is I'm turning breathless / To walk by the seashore of self-rejection") and muted, organic artwork round out this thoughtful package.