Attic - Sanctimonious

Attic Sanctimonious cover
Ván Records
Lo! Behold Attic’s whopping hour long, thirteen tracked sophomore, “Sanctimonious”, released in August under Ván Records which, despite sounding played straight out of a knavish hymnal, features a compelling handful of intense mind-cripplers deployed over a sordid anti-ecclesiastical theatrical narrative about an abbess, who relentlessly persecutes the nuns in her care; while it’ll unlikely accede to a Broadway sensation “Sanctimonious” is competently arranged as far as tragedies are concerned. Sold yet? Well, even if over-the-top King Diamond-esque theatrics fail to fan your flames rest assured the German quintet delivers on all points, from Meister Cagliostro’s multi-faceted vocal antics to the twin guitarists’ harried yet cozily rendered chops which are locked in fast and tight by a frantically operating rhythm section.
The wildly fluctuating vocals play a pivotal role in creating drama, tension and atmosphere, be they high-pitched wails, lugubrious and despondent bespoken admonishments or token vitriolic gnarring evoking a wretchedly possessed soul. The title track even features some draconian Latin courtesy of “Margaret”, the main antagonist – who else? Comparisons to Mercyful Fate, King Diamond and his ilk as well as Portrait and Cradle Of Filth are well warranted, but unlike his grim, off-the-chart counterparts, Meister Cagliostro adheres to a rather fitting cadence in line with Attic’s meticulously drawn song constructs while providing cohesion to the overall narrative and each character’s dialogue; in other words, you won’t cringe when assailed by his timely, however odd, inflections and extreme pitch variations as they ebb and flow with an arcane grace befitting “Sanctimonious” sorrowful theme.
The production isn’t raw or overdone, but it sort of sounds like the bass and drums are a bit swamped, or rather muffled by the vocals and guitars. Alternatively, the leads sit well in the mix without overshadowing the cleverly construed backing riffs. Don’t expect wild lead trade-offs between the two axe men but rather, volatile bursts of penetrative solos like the ones ripping open “Penalized” or violating the brusquely spiralling, death metal-ish “Die Engelmacherin”. As well, when not doubly layered melodic lead harmonies do a fine job of complimenting the driving guitar parts, as crafted on “A Serpent in the Pulpit” or “Sinless”, for example.
Placid albeit eerie interludes abound, whether it’s the vestal church organ and choir chants of “Ludicium Dei” opening “Act One”, further organ piping on “Scrupulosity”, which would have aptly accompanied “Rosemary’s Baby”, with its sinister verbosity (“An affair with a young man from the village led to more than just a broken vow./She knew she was pregnant…”), as well as the aforementioned “A Quest for Blood”, which announces “Act Two” and sinisterly paves the way for the classically wound up and harmonious “Hound in Heaven”.
Orchestral fluff and deistic canine tangent aside, prepare to be ravaged and savaged by the arresting lambasting and gripping riff-age of tracks like “Penalized”, “Sinless” and “Born from Sin”, on which mean old Margaret finally receives her come-uppance at the hands of poor Alice, who too late discovers the atrocious fate reserved for infants of so-called “impure unions”. Slowly ascending, this track gradually build-up impetus before giving way to some chilling black metal term, which soon segues into a thrilling, rattling, chair-flinging guitar riff backed by a downright chaotic and brutalizing drum beat/bass line which comes as a real treat this late in the game. Although, “Sanctimonious” feels a bit “tiré par les cheveux” i.e. bloated and convoluted, it ends on a high note with yet another monstrously resounding number, the eight minute long closer (and most extensive track), “There is no God”, where Alice goes buck wild and slays the crap out of the entire convent out of sheer rage and soul wrenching grief. Hence, “Sanctimonious” may not be a shoo-in for a National Theater Prize, but could very well appeal to the likes of Clive Barker or Joe D’Amato, the infamous video nasty cinematographer.
Looking back, one track which sweetly differentiates itself from its raucous brethren is the transcendental “Dark Hosanna”, as its soulful acoustic guitar progression, fluid lead harmonies and melodically mellow NWOBHM style solo provide the listener with a welcome respite in advance of the pummelling finale which awaits them (the tracks referred to above), while displaying the band’s reflective side in a similar manner as Portrait’s “Pure of Heart” from the Swedes’ latest release, “Burn the World”.
I’ve yet to properly absorb Attic’s debut, “Invocation”, but from what I’ve heard it’s as thorough and masterfully crafted with the benefit of sticking to brass tacks without indulging in such an overblown and somewhat fustian conceptual format; otherwise, “Sanctimonious” is certainly not lacking in the musicianship or song writing departments. Sure, as a whole it’s a bit long-winded and turgid but if you digest it piece meal you’ll amply be rewarded!