Released: 2017, Dark Descent Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
For the cynically jaded music reviewer, a name like Sarcasm lends itself no end of opportunity to lampoon or ridicule. But when an album sounds as good as WITHIN THE SPHERE OF ETHEREAL MINDS, you tend to leave the easy potshots by the wayside.
WITHIN THE SPHERE OF ETHEREAL MINDS is a sequel two decades in the making. Like so many Jake Lamotta's of the mid-90’s death metal scene, Sweden’s Sarcasm coulda been a contender. Their BURIAL DIMENSIONS debut was recorded in 1994 but never released due to the usual record biz shenanigans, and the band called it quits around the same time. But as the years progressed, Sarcasm developed a cult following through the posthumous release of various demo comps, finally culminating with a proper release of BURIAL DIMENSIONS via Dark Descent in 2015. Long story short, this motivated the remaining members of Sarcasm to rebuild the band and work on new material that would ultimately become WITHIN THE SPHERE OF ETHEREAL MINDS.
Having done my homework and studying up on BURIAL DIMENSIONS in advance of listening to the new album, I quickly concluded that this was going to be a tough act to follow. BURIAL DIMENSIONS is a fiercely melodic album underpinned by dark, menacing rhythms and gothic tendencies, and consciously stayed clear of the typical Sweadeath trappings of the day. Legitimately an album ahead of its time; with the proper label support and promotion, in 1994, this album could’ve been elevated Sarcasm to the big leagues. WITHIN THE SPHERE OF ETHEREAL MINDS isn’t quite as groundbreaking as its predecessor, but it’s a faithful and worthy counterpart.
Listening to new tracks like “From the Crimson Fog they Emerged” and “In the Grip of Awakening Times”, I kept thinking about how much the tunes were centered more around melodic harmonies versus typical death metal rhythms. There’s clearly an aggressive nature to the album, but if you extracted vocalist Heval Bozarslan and inserted a Warrel Dane or a Joacim Cans into the mix, the tunes could work just as well in a traditional/power metal setting. The album’s 8 tracks tend to be somewhat formulaic, following a predominantly high velocity, up-tempo path that mimic the cadence of Bozarslan’s scorched earth vocals. When there’s enough diversion and variety across a tune, you don’t mind it so much, but the deeper you get into the album, you begin to wish they’d shake up the plot a bit.
But WITHIN THE SPHERE OF ETHEREAL MINDS closes with a pair of phenomenal tracks that do just that. “A Black Veil for Earth” and “The Drowning Light at the Edge of Dawn” are a pair of darker, meaner tunes that offer a stark contrast to the brighter sounds that preceded them. The former is a massive doom-death monolith, while the latter is ugly, unabashed 90’s death metal. Choosing to close like this is a sharp left turn, but they’re easily the album’s highlights. More of this please guys.
WITHIN THE SPHERE OF ETHEREAL MINDS is evidence that sometimes you do get a second chance at glory. And a label like Dark Descent is probably the best home a band like Sarcasm could hope for right now; in the label’s brief existence, they’ve quickly amassed a reputation for quality goods and have an exceptional PR group making sure that metal fans know it. Whether you’re a fan of the old school, the new school, or you just prefer your extremity with a penchant for sounding pretty, you'll enjoy what Sarcasm has to offer.