Album Review: Sadus - The Shadow Inside
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Arguably one of thrash metal’s most underrated exemplars, Sadus have often been forgotten when the question of underestimated bands is thrown to the air. Now, marking their first full length album since their 2017 reunion, Sadus prepare to unleash The Shadow Inside for a November 17th release window and via Nuclear Blast no less. Formed in 1985 out of California, United States, the band grew to prominence early on with their debut record Illusions, out in 1988, which was only championed again two years later with their 1990 record, arguably their most iconic, Swallowed In Black. However, what struck fans most of all was Sadus’ insistence on a more technical approach to riffs as well as introducing the metal world to now bassist-extraordinaire Steve DiGorgio. Splitting in 2015 the band soon returned two years later yet, its only now the band have become finally poised to make the comeback they’ve so longed for and deserved. So let’s see what The Shadow Inside can offer as the band prepare to unveil their first album recorded in seventeen years.
I like how the band open up this record in slow, methodical fashion; not releasing an album in nearly two decades can do a number on a fanbase believing Sadus can pull off a return, yet the gradual beginning The Shadow Inside offers does demonstrate the band are taking this potential rebirth seriously. They don’t come out of the gates fully swinging, things need to warm up first before we become thoroughly onboard the band’s performance, and it isn’t long until Sadus have us firmly under their heels as their particular form of death/thrash metal binds us within their soundscape. I will say that when the pacing does intensify, I was believing in their performance in mere seconds as it reminded me heavily of the thrash revival that occurred around the late 2000s. Things are fresh and renewed but the overarching spirit that made Sadus the recognisable force to be start with is still present.
This may be viewed as a record that’s devoted to creating marathons of speed but it’s notable how much of this album does take its time. While the band are ultimately geared towards crafting that breakneck experience, much of the band’s time is spent traversing through steadier paced songwriting that sees us stew a little longer within various segments of the tracks more so than other bands would choose. This is a nearly fifty minute record and while track lengths are hardly long here, it does feel like we could greatly more attached to them since Sadus select sections to let those riffs mill a little longer, or to detach from the bulk of the song, and enable their technical edge to breathe some more. It’s nice to see this technicality, a foremost element in the band’s earlier material, has made a considerable return within their songwriting. It isn’t so technical that it overtakes the essence of The Shadow Inside, but it’s poised at the forefront just enough for us to acknowledge equally its implementation and how it separates Sadus from the myriad of thrash acts today.
It’s amazing to recognise that, at fifty-six, frontman-vocalist-guitarist Darren Travis can still bring the vocal energy and snarl that made Sadus’ presence so intoxicating. How he’s been able to safeguard his voice this long, owing to the delivery he’s renowned for, is beyond me, but throughout this full record he’s able to infuse The Shadow Inside with a warped attitude that stems this record beyond the rank and file of conventionally written thrash this year. Whenever his syllables are licking off his tongue there’s always an infusion of venom in his voice; there’s a poisonous bite to every word he utters wherein a line of lyrics isn’t merely bellowed but is always accompanied by a rising, or declining, timbre. As a result, the vocal performance is always on the move and never grows stale since there’s always something more to be felt out of the delivery.
For a band that’s often focused towards how its riffs impact their audience, the drums on this album are absolutely monstrous in scope. Regarding production, it could be said the drumming isn’t anything special; the Tom-toms possess a taut resonance to their skin whereby strikes dissipate quickly, and the bass drums, whilst present, don’t attempt to assume too vast a space. But when the songwriting demands those more intense, and ruthlessly driven, pieces of instrumentation, the drums only build upon the last sequences of playing to amass grand swathes of energy that barrel down upon us and are bound to raise eyebrows, just as they did mine. It impressed me moreover because while the band’s hybrid death/thrash attack permeates all through their onslaught, the drums never give in to the easy and reliable techniques like blast beats and other such approaches. Granted, the drums do employ numerous styles to get that adrenaline climbing but it’s never achieved through typically tried and true methods.
In conclusion, Sadus’ first full length album since their 2006 opus Out For Blood is a legitimate triumph. After seventeen years, the question can be thrown into the air over whether a band can make such a mighty comeback yet, just as Carcass did with their 2013 record Surgical Steel (a timespan just as long), Sadus have returned with a vigour and passion that needs to be recognised from the slew of newer acts coming out of today’s woodwork. It’s amazing that The Shadow Inside is as competent as it is with only a handful of Singles otherwise predating this record’s release, as this is a band that effectively fell off the collective metal consciousness, and have otherwise been criminally underrated during their initial run in the 80s and 90s. I’m hoping this marks a legitimate return for Sadus and for a new generation of fans to come and appreciate not only The Shadow Inside, but their entire back catalogue too.