It doesn't happen often that I get to review something for which no review has been posted online before. At the time I write this review, I cannot find a single website that has a rating or review for Sadman Institute's album Revival, even though it's been released two months ago already. That could mean that too few promo's were sent out, or not enough marketing was done - or that people consider it not good enough to review. With that in mind, I took to reviewing this, expecting the worst. However, things are not always as bad as they seem, and Sadman Institute delivers a far from bad album here.
The band hails from Poland, and consists of Maciej Berniak (drums, percussion), Tomasz Gurgul (guitar), Filip Malinowski(bass), Maciej Pawlik(vocals) and Pawel Szczenpań ski(guitar). They recorded a 3 track EP in 2011, and then spent two years working on this, their debut album. All tracks were recorded in 2013, mixed and mastered in 2014 and then finally released in January 2015.
The album opens promising with Ash And Dust, with a melodic yet metallic intro and a vocal line that reminds vaguely of Dream Theater. A solid metal piece follows, with both the vocal that opens the song and a grunt voice (second track of the same singer perhaps, there is only one vocalist list ed). The track also features a mid section where a guitar tune and bass together support the vocals, as in some early Dream Theater songs. The guitar solo that follows starts out melodic and ends in something that is fast and furious, but not quite the high speed noodling that John Petrucci so often gets accused of. I'm glad about that.
On F.T. the band shows another face, which is closer to traditional metal, if only by the chorus that consists of repeating 'f**k this' over a heavy metal riff and double ba ss drum rhythm. The song mostly cycles between that chorus and more melodic verses, but has an instrumental part whe re the bass and the programmed Mellotron take the lead - the vocals coming back for a heavier, less melodic verse right at the point where the casual listener would expect a guitar solo. That solo follows later, and just like the intro of the song, carries a certain eastern feel.
With Rotten Home the mood changes again to a more dark mood, fitting the rather gloomy lyrics. Here, the influence of Dream Theater's James LaBrie on the vocalist becomes very clear - I can hear the discussions about whether or not that is a good thing start already. Underneath these vocals a dark, sometimes hacking guitar determines most of the track, but the track does also contain an unexpected melodic guitar solo, that is almost friendly compared to the rest of the track.
Take It All then opens with nice interplay between two guitars, a tight, low rhythm guitar and a second one playing a more melodic riff over it. Not in a rhythm that puts your pedal to the metal while driving, but it will make a metal audience bang their heads in unison. This track mixes this riffing with more melodic and lower tempo parts, sometimes mixing the two on top of each other - with radio style vocals. Again, the guitar solo is almost a completely different section of the song, this time it's almost blues like, while the rhythm guitar completely disappears for a while.
After all this brutality, the listener's ears are given a bit of rest in on Sacrifice. The first three minutes feature a melodic guitar tune and clear vocals, some would call it a metal ballad perhaps. Half way, it becomes heavier as the melody is replaced by rhythm guitar again. Still the most mellow song of the album. Full metal feel is back on Trapped Between, the almost 10 minute long closing track of the album. Too long for my taste, because although there are tempo and mood c hanges, and again a nicely built up guitar solo, I've heard enough of what Sadman Institute is capable of already.
Overall, the band delivered a good metal album, and the tempo changes, layered vocals and structure of the songs certainly qualify it as what tends to be called prog metal. However, I'm not sure this is sufficient to stand out in the broad field that this genre has become over the past 20 years. Solid instrumental skills are an ingredient this band has no shortage of, but although it is clear they tried, the compositions lack something that makes them unique. The programmed Mellotron of gu itarist Pawel could be a solution to that, but it is barely there. In fact, I suspect it was used only on F.T., or it is drowned out completely in the mix - which puts the guitars and vocals fully in front and even pushes the drums too far to the back for my taste. There's potential here, I'm sure, but it may take some time to ripen.
*** Angelo Hulshout (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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