Heavy metal is many things to many people. Adolescent power fantasies, calculated noise, fetishized religious subversion, a cry for social justice … you name it. For me it’s an unattainable ideal, and one I chase endlessly: it’s the hunt for the Riff Absolute.
Riffs are the bedrock of all rock genres, but the birth of heavy metal brought new awareness to the untapped potential of a string of notes played by a distorted guitar. Originally just a variation on what is known in musical parlance as an ostinato — which just means a repeating motif — the humble riff was reforged by heavy metal into a primal force worthy of obsession and infinite pursuit. Black Sabbath started us on the path, Metallica elevated the art, and roughly 100,000 metal bands followed in their stead, each doing its best to be the, uh, best of the best.
Which leads us to the astonishing riff-centric brilliance of Sacral Rage, a Greek speed metal band that has stumbled upon (or, more likely, slavishly labored to create) an album’s worth of ingenious riffs on its debut, Illusions In Infinite Void. The band owes a stylistic debt to forgotten progressive metal legends Watchtower, but Sacral Rage soundly trump their heroes by writing songs you’ll actually want to revisit. Like Watchtower, the vocals are an acquired taste, but air-raid falsetto screams have never had better musical accompaniment than this. “En Cima Del Mal” shows the band at its catchiest: lead guitars writhe over subtle shifts of rhythm, but the hooks are front and center and the heavy metal thunder is strong. Most importantly, the riffs are godlike: explosive, exploratory, and perfectly crafted. Listen.
Illusions In Infinite Void is out 3/10 via Cruz Del Sur.