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“Hate” is Sinister’s ultimate statement, it is the band’s most conceptually complete, musically savage and their most technically refined album. Mike van Mastrigt delivers his most spirited vocal performance, Bart van Wallenberg shines on both guitars and bass guitar, while Aad Kloosterwaard hammers out what is by all means his most diverse and utterly pummeling work behind the drum kit. André Tolhuizen had exited band prior to these sessions. Bart Van Wallenberg thus became the main songwriter along with Aad Kloosterwaard (drums). This is the start of the second era of Sinister’s first period, and the first record to signal a major line-up change in terms of writing and overall construction. On this record Sinister starts to live up to its chosen moniker, as “Hate” does indeed sounds hateful, dark and broodingly atmospheric in equal measure.

What immediately stands out about this album, in comparison to the two records that preceded it, is how controlled and perfectly dosed everything is. “Hate” is still completely over-the-top in its wall-to-wall brutality, and the unhinged song structures of old remain intact and unscathed – but the whole is more controlled, better paced and just fine-tuned on all major aspects. In all its somewhat slower compared to “Diabolical Summoning”, but the fast parts are faster than anything the band had done prior. Van Wallenberg also appears to be a more technically proficient player than Tolhuizen, as the riff – and song contruction have leveled up in terms of technicality. The hateful riffs are denser, while retaining Sinister’s patented crawling melodies, and the drumming has become more involved and demanding. There are keyboards and synthesizers used sparingly to add atmospheric flavors, van Mastrigt uses spooky whispers every once in a while that add a lot to the intended horror character.

sinisterThe album starts off with the slightly demented sounding but ultimately pointless ‘Intro’. ‘Awaiting the Absu’ is the first real cut of the album.  As an opener it is all you could ask for. A blast and bass guitar break follow each other in rapid succession, and not until the track goes into midpace does it truly reveal its strength. Van Wallenberg’s transition to both string instruments appears seamless, as this is the most complex and technical the band had ever sounded. The more technical playing also translates into more layered, and complex song structures. “Hate” is a step forward on all fronts for a band mostly respected for its directness and reliance on brutality. “Hate” is a game changer. The writing is as smart as it is deceptive. On the surface it appears to be a fast album, but these fast sections are surrounded by large swaths of a dirgey midpace that was the bread-and-butter of North American – and European death metal. It sounds like a fast album, but it is another solid Sinister album in actuality. The key difference is that “Hate” presents it in a different manner. Sinister hadn’t really changed from “Diabolical Summoning” – for the first time the writing was able to match the band’s strengths.

‘The Embodiment Of Chaos’ is a stellar example of the band’s new writing style, it starts out with a blast section, but segues into an extended midpace in the middle before concluding with another blast. Sinister was never much of an arististic band, and “Hate” is no different. There are no leads/solos to speak of, but the usage of melody and the way the songs are constructed add to the memorability. The chorus section to ‘Art Of the Damned’, for example, is instantly memorable. ‘Unseen Darkness’ is the slowest track of the album. Taking a cue from the arising American scene “Hate” is a faster, denser and more muscular type of death metal that still retains the band’s thrash roots and the oppressive dark atmosphere which made “Diabolical Summoning” as strong as it was.

In many ways “Hate” was the coronation moment of Sinister’s earliest period. This is arguably their best, most complete offering on all fronts. Everything came together for a moment, and this record best reflects that. The band would never reach Gorefest type of exposure or popularity, but as a more underground offering – it is among the better ones of the 90s Dutch death metal scene. After the “Hate” sessions Sinister would part ways with long-time singer Mike van Mastrigt, who was replaced by Eric de Windt. A bass guitarist would be enlisted in Alex Paul, allowing former bassist Bart van Wallenberg to remain in his current position as rhythm guitarist. Sinister would release another three records after this, all while dealing with the usual line-up changes, before finally calling it a day in 2003 after the terrible duo that was “Creative Killings” and “Savage Or Grace”.

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The Netherlands has always had a strong if not underappreciated presence in the international metal scene. At the genre’s inception and earlier days Holland had important figures in the likes of Altar, Asphyx, Gorefest, Pestilence and Thanatos – alongside these generally more known outfits were also lesser known entities such as the female-fronted Acrostichon and underground stalwarts Sinister. While other regional players went to commercial and critical success, Sinister was largely crippled by ongoing personnel problems, infighting, label changes and bouts of creative inertia that helped little to forward the band’s profile and reputation, domestic and abroad.

“Diabolical Summoning”, the band’s first studio effort after their more thrash-oriented debut from 1992, sounds by and large as Mortification’s “Scrolls Of the Megilloth” and Monstrosity’s “Imperial Doom” that were released the year before. The Monstrosity comparisons only ring true in the faster paced segments, and nowhere are the band as technically gifted as their American contemporaries. However like their Australian peers the band make do with the skill level that they have and produce some wonderfully dark music that way. In a scene bursting with individual talent, Sinister was able to sound like no other in the country. They mixed sounds of Europe, America and Scandinavia in a battering, conflicting style that emphasized the strength of each regional influence.

Sinister weren’t the first to fully embrace the anti-religious, abstract horror influenced sub-branch of death metal. Gorefest had been peddling the splatter gore with their debut “Mindloss”, and Thanatos were going for a more cinematic interpretation of horror flicks from the decades before. Asphyx and Pestilence both dwelled in themes of horror and earthly societal subjects, but Sinister found their niche early on and perfected it to a considerable degree. Even though one is hard pressed to call any of these records genre defining or timeless, they were of importance to the surrounding scenes, locally and regionally. The three albums that Sinister released in the period from 1992 to 1995 are underground classics. Everybody might not talk about them often, or at all – but that doesn’t change the fact that these records were important when they were released.

The album kicks off with ‘Sadistic Intent’ that thanks to the thundering bass-break that introduces the track, the wholly monstrous grunts of Mike van Mastrigt and the sophisticated and blast-heavy drumming by co-founder Aad Kloosterwaard makes a big impression. Unlike a lot of other bands in this genre the bass guitar is actually important to the composition, and outside of this track it also is key in another cut, namely the video track ‘Leviathan’. It also helps that Sinister regularly includes leads/solos, while these are mostly of the Hoffman variety, they add to the overall presentation. ‘Magnified Wrath’ is important in the sense that it lays the groundwork for the next album, and in particular the closing track ‘To Mega Therion’. Kloosterwaard’s percussive abilities are more than impressive, especially his footwork and cymbal crashes. While his fills aren’t very creative, his style is direct and confrontational. There was nothing ornamental about Sinister’s music even at this early stage in their existence. Everything is aimed at maximum impact. Subtlety be damned. The title track is very reminiscent of what Cannibal Corpse was doing at the time, and sounds somewhat in between “Butchered at Birth” and “Tomb Of the Mutilated” in delivery and guitar work. ‘Sense Of Demise’, outside of the drum-vocal introduction, is similar to what came before and functions mostly as a slower paced track to introduce the promo single ‘Leviathan’.

‘Leviathan’ starts off with a spooky bass intro and the pace is kept deliberately low as to give the cut a light doom aura that fits the occult horror lyrics. This is also the longest cut of the album lasting well over 5 minutes. In a way this track goes for an early Morbid Angel vibe in the slow parts, although the blast sections work well within the provided doom-laced framework. The drumming really shines here as the track’s slower pace gives Kloosterwaard the space and time to show off his skilful footwork, while fills and rolls were never his forte at least he gets to stretch his legs a bit stylistically here, more figuratively than literally in this case. ‘Mystical Illusions’ is a strong album closer.

For this record Sinister consisted of Mike van Mastrigt (vocals), Aad Kloosterwaad (drums), Bart van Wallenberg (bass guitar) and André Tolhuizen (rhythm/lead guitars). “Diabolical Summoning” was recorded at TNT Studio in Gelsenkirchen, Germany with producer Colin Richardson. The incredible cover artwork rendered was by the much in-demand and widely appreciated Wes Benscoter. This is the last album of the original Sinister line-up, as Tolhuizen would exit after these sessions. Van Wallenberg would take up guitar duties for the third album “Hate” and its two follow-ups that were written in the same style, despite other fluctuating positions within the band. In all this is the best record of Sinister’s early years and style, although the band’s third opus “Hate” is more atmospheric - this was the band’s defining moment.