By Rafi Yovell (also posted on his writing blog)
Imagine being a thrash metal band and you released one of the best debut albums in the genre. Where would you go from there? Well, if you’re Sinnery, you’ll boldly change your approach with the next release, all while ensuring it’s still a banger.
The Israeli thrashers mix things up on their sophomore record, leaning away from their previously more progressive style in favor of a stronger groove/death metal influence. While this does mean Black Bile‘s sound isn’t as overtly energetic as Sinnery‘s previous album, A Feast of Fools, it does make for an undeniably interesting contrast.
Most of the songs here alternate back and forth between fast, thrashy tempos and slow, groovy ones, presenting a dynamic duality. Hell, Sinnery even took their shot at a full-on doom metal approach with two songs on the album, “Sever” and “Holes.” There’s influence ranging from Gojira and Paradise Lost to My Dying Bride and Behemoth on the aforementioned tracks. And guess what? It works. This just goes to show the true extent of this band’s immense and innovative capabilities.
The evolution in Sinnery’s sound extends to the production quality as well. This material sounds raw and ugly, which helps Black Bile further distinguish itself from the band’s more slick and polished debut.
While there clearly is a shift, Black Bile luckily still represents the band’s roots. Sinnery are able to hold onto their own identity by staying true to a few key characteristics in their music. For instance, the melodious aspect is still there, especially shown on the title track. The chorus emerges with a surprisingly metalcore-like catchiness, hinting at early era Trivium influence. This subtle emphasis on melodies also often appears within the guitar solos and sounds very classical in nature. Perhaps lead guitarist, Idan Kringel, was harnessing his inner Yngwie Malmsteen or Marty Friedman throughout the recording process, which adds a fresh twist to the modern thrash genre.
The riffing and drumming are not only intricate, but also quite diverse. Alon Karnieli and Matan Mandelbaum are able to adapt to the stark tempo changes in each song, all while never missing a beat. Even though it has been a few years since their previous release, Sinnery‘s sheer technical skill is just as impressively spot on now as when they began.
I know it’s usually seen as a joke to talk about bass in metal, but just like in A Feast of Fools, Saar Tuvi’s playing finds a way of making itself noticeable through the layers of heavy instrumentation. And damn, it’s surprising how much it adds to the dynamics and progression of every song. Occasionally, it even feels like his bass dictates where the piece is headed. This superb bass musicianship is a staple that makes Sinnery‘s sound more positively distinct compared to other thrash metal bands. I just hope they don’t ruin it by ‘pulling a Lars Ulrich’ in the future.
The lyrics are downright gnarly, dripping with as much wrath and disgust as Alon’s growled vocals. I especially got goosebumps from “The Burning” and “Mouthful of Nails.” Do yourself a favor and read the lyrics while listening to those songs. You’ll thank me for a good night’s sleep later.
My only major complaint with the album is that once I got a good feel for what the band were going for, I didn’t encounter as many pleasant surprises as their debut. As a result, despite the risks that Sinnery took with Black Bile, it doesn’t feel quite as unique and original as its predecessor. After Black Bile‘s first half ended, the album already pulled off every trick it had up its sleeve, and recycled them in the second half. It didn’t keep me guessing all the way through like A Feast of Fools did. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this album’s latter half, but for the most part, I wasn’t as captivated.
If you’d rather listen to an album that’s more progressive, slick, and unconventional, chances are you’ll prefer A Feast of Fools. On the other hand, if you seek the more brutal, raw, and consistent, you’d likely gravitate towards Black Bile. In other words, Megadeth and Annihilator fans should try Sinnery‘s debut, while Slayer and Power Trip headbangers will love this new record.
That being said, even if you’re like me and prefer the first option, I still absolutely recommend you check out Black Bile. It’s a high-tier thrash/groove metal record by a band that proved themselves capable of nailing more than just one style. If Sinnery ever decide to release a third album in the future, you bet I’ll be tuning in.
TL;DR: “It’s a new way, I’m the first in line, and it worked this time.” – Dave Mustaine