Review: Sator ‘Cleansing Ritual’

Sator hail from Genoa, Italy, and with this their third album they are clearly making confident strides towards being spoken about in the same breath as the big boys of the doom and sludge genres. Cleansing Ritual was released on 22nd April through Argonauta Records, and it is one of those rare records that I would recommend to pretty much everyone in Shamanland to give a go – there’s a lot to enjoy here, and it brings with it a level of familiarity without the usual hint of ‘we’ve heard this all before’.

Sator 'Cleansing Ritual'

I’ll start by saying it sounds absolutely huge! I’m something of a nit-picker when it comes to how albums are mixed and mastered (I’d be a full-time audiophile snob if only I had the cash to buy good enough equipment!) but Cleansing Ritual rumbles, barks and cracks in all the right ways. Played at a decent volume through my main system, the low-end sounds like there’s a JCB tractor slowly driving past my house. Awesome! Sator are a classic three-piece band, but the way this thing is mixed, it sounds like there is a small army of doom-mongers involved.

Sator has taken the tried and tested approach of bookending tracks with excerpts from old horror movies. Is this revolutionary? Of course not. Does it still work? Yes indeed – the addition of these clips really adds to the overall feel of the record, giving the whole thing a slightly seedy underbelly. You know that feeling you get when watching a Rob Zombie film? That slight unease from revelling in the immorality of it all… well that’s what you get with Sator.

Opening track Ancient Disease is, to my ears, pure Electric Wizard worship. If this track was added to Witchcult Today as a previously unheard bonus cut, then none of you would even think twice to question it. What keeps it from being disappointing (cos let’s face it, if you wanna listen to Electric Wizard then just listen to Electric Wizard!) is the fact that it’s such a good track. This is top-tier modern doom – hence my earlier comment that the vast majority of us are gonna find something to enjoy in this record.

Sator have got a shit-tonne going for them – great musicians – impressive songwriting – some talented people behind the mixing desk – and possibly some very excellent weed…

Having enjoyed track one I am then more than happy to report that Sator do not continue down the Wizard path – each of the remaining three tracks has its own style and a fair amount of variation, whilst obviously staying within the doom and sludge wheelhouse. Solaris immediately has a more bluesy feel to it and edges further toward EyeHateGod territory (though perhaps without the absolute chaos and violent threat that EyeHateGod seem to be able to bring to the table so consistently). The main riff is punctuated with slow and painful feedback which contrasts really well with the change in pace for the second act of the track. Solaris is perhaps my least favourite of the four tracks, but it would easily be the highlight of a good few of the albums I’ve heard by other bands this year, which is testament to the strength of Sator’s songwriting.

Third track, Murder By Music, is the shortest track here, clocking in at eight and a half minutes. The echo-drenched guitar lines make this the most psychedelic track on display. The bass playing is also worthy of particular mention – bassist and vocalist Valerio adds to the melody and dynamics throughout, rather than simply filling in the gaps between guitar and drums. Let’s not start slagging off bassists, but we’ve all seen players who only use one string – none of that with Sator – all three of these guys know their way around their weapons for sure!

After five minutes Murder By Music breaks into a bit of a gallop – not something you hear too much in modern doom – but it’s wholly welcome and the wall of noise is satisfying as hell.

The guitar lines on final track, On The Edge, are probably the most ‘classic doom’ of anything you’ll find on Cleansing Ritual. Joyously, this classic feel then gives way to the heaviest passage on the album. The middle section veers closer to a post-metal vibe and the pace picks up considerably, just in case you thought the album was going to slowly rumble its way to the end.

Sator have got a shit-tonne going for them – great musicians – impressive songwriting – some talented people behind the mixing desk – and possibly some very excellent weed. I’ll be making a point of following these ‘children of doom’ and hopefully seeing them live in the future. If there is a space in your ears that is of a doom/sludge shape, then you could do a lot worse than filling it with Sator’s Cleansing Ritual.

Label: Argonauta Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: David J McLaren