Sanhedrin – Lights On (Album Review)

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The ugly truth has been illuminated.

There is no shortage of inspiration of late for those seeking to paint a bleak musical picture of the world as it is, though the number of acts out there that pull it off with a sense of distinctiveness and poise are a rarer find. Though by no means a band bent on reinventing the wheel, one of Brooklyn, New York’s latest offerings to the retro-heavy metal scene dubbed Sanhedrin have definitely made a point of putting their own spin on things through a combination of innovative songwriting and a full exploitation of their barebones instrumental arrangement. Indeed, the prospect of a power trio being able to put forth something expansive enough to differentiate itself from the pack would seem to be a stretch, but after a similar spirit to the one that brought us the grittiness of Motorhead and the otherworldly exploits of Ningen Isu, this small fold has forged its own unique path via “Lights On,” their 3rd and latest studio LP.

Taking heavy cues from the murky trails originally blazed by the likes of Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy, and put under a more heavily distorted, fuzz-steeped and occasionally psychedelic-tinged sonic template comparable to the likes of Saint Vitus and Orange Goblin, this is the sort of craftsmanship that might have some pondering how music can exist in both the 1970s and the present simultaneously. In contrast to more overtly traditional doom outfits such as Lucifer that seek to channel the past all but down to the last note, the style presented here as more of a riff-driven tightness to it that lends itself more to the precision-based attack of early 80s outfits like Grim Reaper and Diamond Head. In this capacity, vocalist/bassist Erica Stoltz’s attitude drenched and occasionally jagged-edged singing proves a highly distinctive feature, though it winds up sharing equal prominence with the dynamic and idiomatic riffing put forth by guitarist Jeremy Solsville, who channels Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin as much as he does Tony Iommi.

While this is an opus that takes its lyrical cues from the frustrating realm of current events and often reeks of cynicism, it often strikes the ears in an upbeat manner from a musical angle. The opening banger and up tempo cruiser “Correction” could all but be a direct homage to the crunchy, guitar-driven high jinks heard on a number of early 80s classics, with the principle riff sounding dangerously close to something Nick Bowcott would have dreamed up back in the day. The equally swift yet somewhat looser title anthem “Lights On” definitely plays up the faster side of the stoner metal/rock coin in terms of atmosphere, though the rapid foray of the guitar work comes closer to a quicker number out of the Jake E. Lee era of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career. Other seemingly smooth grooving stoner anthems that come with some blatant kinetic riffing moments include the driving cooker “Change Takes Forever” and the muddy Judas Priest meets Motorhead speed metal romp “Scythian Women”.

Naturally every song can’t be a high octane kill session, and though no song on here wants for an identity of its own, the slower material found on this album is where things truly break from the pack. The Sabbath-infused creep of “Hero’s End” features some truly memorable hooks, and between the bluesy swagger and atmospheric nuance of the guitar work and the dynamic range of Stoltz’s vocal performance, also proves to be the most climactic offering of the bunch. The rock anthem demeanor of “Lost At Sea” has a slight Rush tinge to it circa Hemispheres with side helping of early Cirith Ungol mystique to loosen the edges on what is otherwise a tight and methodical presentation that invites live audience participation. And for those seeking a dense atmospheric musical journey turned jarring up tempo metallic display, the closing 7 minute epic “Death Is A Door” covers pretty much every base and also features an exemplary performance out of drummer Nathan Honor that rivals some of Bill Ward’s classic moments.

One casual pass at any of these eight songs will find most recognizing something familiar going on, but a closer examination will reveal something that is also fresh, up to date, and not afraid to occasionally venture outside the lines. Fans of more rustic styled, rock-tinged metal revival bands that push the envelope in how they approach songwriting such as The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Dawnbringer and fellow New Yorkers Realmbuilder will definitely find a lot of the same elements at play, though the intricate display out of vocalist Erica Stoltz also exposes some fairly blatant parallels to the likes of King Witch and Holy Grove, among some other woman-fronted doom acts. There are some points where the limited scope of this band’s instrumentation is more exposed than others, and though the overall presentation errs on the side of simplicity, this is the sort of album that enters strong and continues to shine once the newness wears off.

Released By: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: March 4th, 2022
Genre: Heavy Metal

Musicians:

  • Erica Stoltz / Bass, Vocals
  • Jeremy Solsville / Guitars
  • Nathan Honor / Drums

“Lights On” Track Listing

  1. Correction
  2. Lights On
  3. Lost at Sea
  4. Change Takes Forever
  5. Code Blue
  6. Scythian Women
  7. Hero’s End
  8. Death Is a Door

Lights On” is available in the following formats here.

  • Jewelcase-CD
  • 180g black vinyl (EU exclusive)
  • Pale blue grey marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 300 copies)
  • Clear ochre brown marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 300 copies)
  • Orange red brown marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 200 copies)
  • Deep violet marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 200 copies)
  • Clear gray brown marbled vinyl (US exclusive)

8.5 Excellent

Brooklyn born power trio and New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal trustees Sanhedrin take their blend of early heavy and doom metal influences with occasional traces of sludge to a darker and more cynical place on their 3rd and latest studio album

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8.5
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