If you’re middle aged, you’ve probably come to like metal via the classics: Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. If you’re younger, you’ve most likely discovered these bands later, working your way back, so to speak, for you simply cannot be into metal without knowing them. Either way, you’re familiar with their sound and might even have a soft spot for it. Sanhedrin from Brooklyn, NYC had impressively and credibly revived that sound with their self-released debut album A Funeral for the World (2017), re-released last year by Cruz Del Sur. A Funeral for the World features the characteristic vocals, the guitar solos, the drama and the pathos of the originals, minus the machismo. The album’s lyrics deal with the here and now, having as subjects for example the devastating effects of wide-spread drug abuse and pollution. I liked the classical sound of A Funeral for the World so much, that it made my best-albums-of-the-year list, and when I saw the announcement for the band’s new album, I immediately went and pestered my editor to let me have it once it came out.

By now I have given The Poisoner quite a few spins and can tell you the following: Sanhedrin’s new album is at the same time similar to and different from A Funeral for the World. From the very beginning, you can tell that this is Sanhedrin. You recognize the classical sound, Erica Stoltz’s vocals and Jeremy Sosville’s guitar work. But you can also tell, that the band have further developed their sound, that they have matured. The song structures are more complex. The influences are no longer so easy to pin down and include even a bit of psychedelia now (most audible for example on In From The Outside, the album’s final track). The band appear to have carved out a musical space that is very much their own. Sometimes the sound is closer to hard rock than to heavy metal, and of the two I very much favour the latter, but the basics haven’t changed: Erica Stoltz, on bass and doing vocals, is still a phenomenal front-woman, and Jeremy Sosville (Black Anvil) remains a virtuoso on the guitar. There appears to be an inexhaustible well of guitar riffs and solos somewhere in the back of his mind. Drummer Nathan Honor who completes the trio might be the band’s youngest member, but regarding performance he’s absolutely on one level with Stoltz and Sosville.

You can listen to the whole of A Funeral For The World on Bandcamp and also to a couple of pre-released tracks from The Poisoner, among them Blood From A Stone. Of the album’s eight tracks, it is my favourite. It is representative for the kind of music the band makes and unifies everything I like about them: a classical sound, a relatively fast tempo, great drumming, imaginative guitar riffs and expressive vocals. The only song that differs or sticks out from the rest is the title track, The Poisoner. A conceptual homage to the obligatory ballad any old school metal band would include on their album, The Poisoner has a slower tempo, more drama and melancholia, and also an additional instrument, a violin, played by Stoltz’s former Amber Asylum band mate Kris Force.

The band will be on tour through Europe during March and judging from the live videos I’ve seen, they’ll put on an excellent show. If everything goes as planned, I’ll go and find out and then tell you all about it.

(8/10 Slavica)