Sapremia - _With Winter Comes Despair_
(Open Grave Records, 2008)
by: Colleen Burton (6 out of 10)
_With Winter Comes Despair_ marks Sapremia's first full-length reunion release -- and in fact, their first full-length ever, following up a decade of demos and EPs. Lying dormant until 2006 saw their compilation album beginning to circulate, a different guitarist and drummer are breathing life into this old-school death metal act from New Jersey alongside dedicated original members.

The first track is named for their label, Open Grave Records, and immediately an altered quality to Lou's voice becomes recognizable; he retains a gruff, Corpsegrinder approach to his vocals but with much less guttural growling. Ryan Hill is holding his own, blasting the drums as is necessary for brutal metal, and occasionally the guitars subside to let his sound burst through with Lou's bass, creating a very heavy effect.

Double bass and tremolo picking dominate "Forgotten Paradise" to contrast with the melancholy elements of the first song; perhaps one of the best offerings of this album, a headbanger's anthem if ever there was one. Conversely, "The Despair of Winter" drags on a bit, becoming a great deal more pensive, and appropriately bleak with the guitars switching up creepy sounds to go with the darkening mood.

Fans will see a lot of throwbacks on this album, such as "Life" which redoes the syncopated and eerie sound structure of _Hollow_'s "Life of Fantasy".

Obviously, the production quality has rocketed up since their early demo days. They've abandoned some earlier approaches, too, such as utilizing backing vocals, and the energy on _With Winter Comes Despair_ really shows Sapremia giving themselves a kick in the ass, as the guitars are doing a lot more shredding and the vocals have diversified.

Sometimes there are drawbacks to this new sound, however. "Ambitious Suffering", arguably the best track from _Existence of Torture_, gets revisited to the dismay of older fans because all of the edge and rawness from the '90s is gone and they've made it a great deal tamer.

On the flipside, the heightened production value on _With Winter Comes Despair__ for whatever reason blows the tracks from _Hollow_ like "Cold War" right out of the water. The strange rhythm on "Life of Fantasy" is thrust into sharpened clarity while Lou‘s voice takes on a new note of brutality, dwarfing the last version by comparison. The guitars and drums remain in a nice, working balance with each other.

"Through Sight Beyond" ends this revisitation trend by busting out a lot of old-school flavor and "Hollow" injects some anger and energy before the gritty finale dubbed "Ascension". A couple listens will reveal that they're definitely shifting away from the grind core influence of the earlier days, favoring instead a heavy presentation and the old-school brutality of acts like Morta Skuld.

As far as recommendations go, the musicianship is largely above reproach, so perhaps it would be nice to see some more no-holds-barred songs coming forth, a la Deicide -- Lou certainly has the pipes for it.

The visitation of older material is more or less effective for this release, but in future, Sapremia should probably try to concentrate on forging ahead. After all, the older work was reoffered and/or redone on both the compilation album and _Hollow_.

This is some talented old-timer death metal, and it brings an interesting sound to the table because it's not bantered about all the time like old-school thrash, so Sapremia manages to personalize their style while keeping true to the essential roots of their older material and all of the music that inspired them.


(article published 19/7/2008)

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