It’s fairly common knowledge that Dutch death metal legends Sinister were at their peak in the early 90’s, releasing debut Cross The Styx, follow-up Diabolical Summoning and third effort Hate in quick succession and to widespread acclaim.
Fans of those outstanding entries in the annals of death metal history will be pleased as fucking punch to hear that Mike Van Mastrigt (the vocalist from those three defining releases) is now the vocalist for Neocaesar. Not only that, lining up alongside him are ex-Sinister members Michel Alderleifsten (bass), Eric De Windt (drums) and Bart Van Wallenberg (guitars). And, not only that, Mastright & Alderleifsten are also members of brutal death metallers Houwitser which should provide more than a hint of the direction Neocaesar are heading in!
With the band pedigree out of the way (and there’s no disputing these guys supreme credentials), it’s to Neocaesar’s debut, 11:11, we turn. As expected, elements of punishing old-school, groove-drenched death metal saddle up next to progressive elements on the band’s full length debut, and this is an album sure to please those who fell in love with Sinister’s early works but without simply mimicking past glories.
Hefty guttural workouts are channelled via a myriad of groove-addled time changes which chug and churn at an alarming rate. The results are, for the majority, pretty stunning and while Neocaesar aren’t attempting to re-write the death metal playbook they are capable of adding an extra page to its already bulging tome.
Less brutal and more melodic (take that within an old-school death metal context and not in an In Flames kinda way), 11:11 is simply a quality death metal release that’s home to an abundance of astoundingly heavy, yet catchy, mid-paced riffs, ridiculously insistent vocal hooks and an ear for surprisingly progressive moments that bewitch the listener as they weave their way through Neocaesar’s traditional framework. A fine start from a band of veterans still delivering at the highest level. 8/10