Celestial Sanctuary – Soul Diminished Review

You love it when bands offer ripping guitar solos, wild technicality, acoustic passages, keyboards or other non-traditional instrumentation, right? I do too, of course, but sometimes it’s important to opt for the “keep it simple stupid” lifestyle. If you require 32 pieces of flair in your death metal, then you can get your music recommendations from the manager at Chotchkies. Jennifer Aniston and I are going to keep it simple by hitting play on the chugging death metal of Celestial Sanctuary while we burn down Initech.

Release date: March 26, 2021. Label: Redefining Darkness Records.
While you may not be a fan of hardcore as a genre, its infectious simplicity is hard to deny and many bands have found ways to channel its greatest strengths into other genres. Power Trip has done so to great effect by keeping many riffs and passages pretty basic while throwing in thrash elements and aesthetics to keep it from being too one-dimensional. Celestial Sanctuary adheres to a similar ethos on their debut album, Soul Diminished, but funnel those simple crushers through death metal instead. Before you panic and run away, this is NOT deathcore. They aren’t simply patch-working tired death metal riffs into one-note breakdowns with high/low tradeoff vocals screeching and burping all over the place.

Songs like “Rid the Gormless” offer infectious deathly riffs for most of its runtime before it smoothly pulls back the speed into an open break with splashy cymbals that launch the song into a heavy-as-hell breakdown section. Soul Diminished offers the kind of breakdowns that equate to early humans clubbing their cavemate simply because they wanted to in a time where civility and manners didn’t exist. They flex hardcore muscle without you needing a borecore pillow for the snooze-worthy breaks many other bands throw around.

“Relentless Savagery” hits those sweet pinch harmonics that make metal ears tingle. “Mass Extinction” gives you a slow-building intro that offers up little touches of tremolo runs from one guitar while the hefty note rings out from the other. The song expertly continues to build on itself until about the 1:30 mark when they go guns blazing for a stretch before dropping into a killer hardcore backbeat with a thrashy riff overtop that will keep the crowd happily running in circles.

That last sentiment is one that consistently cropped up while listening to Soul Diminished; this band is going to be killer live. There is a lot of open space in the songs that will lend it to being heard heftily on even the crappiest of systems. You can easily picture people pumping their fists to the slow groove of the title track, windmilling their hair during the speedy battering of “Endless Chasm” or bashing away at their buddies in the pit to the hardcore backbeat on “Wretched Habits.”

In their current state, however, that live performance isn’t likely to be a headlining spot. Every song primarily sticks with the slow-to-mid-paced riff patterns, a strong breakdown section and the occasional splash of speed. Since all the songs tend to utilize the same handful of elements, the band is a bit of a one-trick pony; that being said, they do their one trick very well. Celestial Sanctuary would make for an excellent direct support band that’s guaranteed to get the crowd’s blood pumping even more than the 30 minutes of alcohol lubrication that would accompany their set.

These burly Englishmen formed in 2019 and recorded this debut album in the summer of 2020. For a band this early in its existence, Soul Diminished is a pro-level debut with a firmly and well-executed style. They don’t need 32 pieces of flair to make a strong album, but perhaps four or five pieces might get them over the hump. They even hint at their ability to do so with the clean guitar intro on “Yearn for the Rot,” the (admittedly brief) lead on “Suffer Your Sentience” and the sound effects-laden drum track in closer “Formless Entity.” These elements can be more fully incorporated and others can be separated out to make them shine more distinctly. A shorter track that goes full speed or one that really takes their slow, doomier elements to their brink could help break up what they’ve done on album number one.

Ultimately, this is a solid album to turn your brain off to, and at 37 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome!

Posted by Spencer Hotz

Admirer of the weird, the bizarre and the heavy, but so are you. Why else would you be here?

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