Written by Kep
Celestial Sanctuary – Insatiable Thirst for Torment
> Death metal
> Releasing August 25
> Church Road Records
Friends, Celestial Sanctuary have leveled up.
You had to know this was coming. After all, there was little to be found but overwhelming praise for their 2021 album Soul Diminished, as solid and promising a death metal debut as any band can hope to release. And sophomore slumps are the exception to the rule these days; most bands take a notable step forward between albums one and two, especially when the outfit in question has label support to keep production quality high. So yeah, you and I and every death metal fan on earth knew Insatiable Thirst for Torment was going to be a) very good and b) better than the debut record. But even then, I’m not sure I was expecting a step forward this big.
To put it neatly, Insatiable Thirst for Torment is head and shoulders better than Soul Diminished and an enormous leap forward for a band that was already looking to be a major player in the burgeoning old school death metal renaissance. This is one of those albums with wide appeal that will make new fans while simultaneously pleasing the hell out of the existing fanbase.
If there’s one word that describes the theme of this album best, it’s More. Bigger. Better. How so? Well, for starters, the production has been tweaked a bit: it’s balanced a skosh more effectively and the full band texture feels larger as a result. Frontman Thomas Cronin’s Reifert-esque throaty howls still sit at the forefront of the mix but feel a little less prominent now (and goddamn is his vocal performance a good one here, arresting and brutal as hell), and the guitar tones feel wider and thicker. The whole band benefits from this more woofy sound in the guitars as it really ups the huge feel of the ensemble and the record on the whole. Jay Rutterford’s bass also lays a notably substantial foundation, filling all the cracks and crevices in the texture and making it feel larger than life.
So what else is bigger and better here on Insatiable Thirst for Torment? Those riffs, baby. Channeling pieces of your favorite giants of the genre like Cannibal Corpse, Autopsy, and Bolt Thrower, guitarists Cronin and Matt Adnett deliver a package that’s full to bursting with enormous old school riffwork. These are some big boy riffs, from the fluttering solo that helps kick off opener “Trapped Within the Rank Membrane”, to the menacing “Scourge of Iron”-style chugs of “Biomineralization (Cell Death)”, to the driving low tremolos that lead portions of closer “Gutted With a Blunt Blade”. It’s strong, strong shit across the board, with some eerie melodic passages like in “The Lurid Glow of a Dead, Burning Body” standing out as a nice change of pace from loads of blasting power and hard-grooving chugs. And don’t worry they’ve still got tons of those nasty pinch harmonics that helped define their sound two years back. Drummer James Burke turns in a robust but somehow understated performance to keep things rock solid and precise, his unpretentious old school grooves a perfect match for the riffwork.
The songs of Insatiable Thirst are themselves a good deal more substantial. Stretching eight tracks across 40 minutes (compared to nine tracks across 37 minutes on Soul Diminished), each offering feels like a hearty portion with plenty of meat. For the most part Celestial Sanctuary has moved away from standard song structures, too, with only “Glutted With Chunder” and “Gutted With a Blunt Blade” really standing out for structural simplicity and succinct brutality, respectively. Don’t expect any verse/chorus/verse/chorus shit here; they do a great job of developing ideas and deferring the payoff for maximum effect. For example: Cronin’s first delivery of “Swivel eeeeyed” (followed by one of the greatest BLEGHs I’ve ever heard) on “Swivel Eyed and Gurning in the Shadows” doesn’t happen until the song is over half done, and it’s so damn satisfying to finally get it there. Tracks like “Swivel Eyed”, “Trapped Within the Rank Membrane”, and “Biomineralization” pack riff after fat riff into substantial frameworks well over five minutes, and there’s not a moment to get bored with so much to take in. There’s a moment in the final stretch of “Trapped” where the guitars drop out and leave the bass solo for several bars, leading into a monster coda that features one of the best riffs on the record, and that’s sort of exemplative of their bigger, more adventurous songwriting: rather than winding down, they give us a little bit of something awesome and then keep on churning out the riffs.
If there was one thing that Soul Diminished lacked, it was “wow” moments. The sort of riffs, vocal hooks, and solos that stick in your head and send you running back for another fix. And in case you haven’t gotten my drift yet: this record has them. The aforementioned first “chorus” of “Swivel Eyed” is bound to be one of those moments the crowd screams out at live shows. The enormous chug groove that “Meandering Stream of Foul Fluid” lands on in its second half begs to be headbanged to. Nifty licks and moments like the surprising harmonies in the “Biomineralization” solo snatch you by the ears. This record is the complete package.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Will Insatiable Thirst for Torment be the most popular death metal album of 2023? Well…with Cannibal Corpse and Dying Fetus still up later in the year, maybe not, but it’s gonna damn well be in that upper echelon. Albums like this, the sort that will appeal to the wide range of modern metal fans as much as they appeal to dedicated old school death metal devotees, don’t come as often as you’d think. Be prepared to hear a lot about Celestial Sanctuary’s place in the vanguard of modern death.