AMN Reviews: Sarattma – Escape Velocity (2022; Nefarious Industries)

Sarattma is the instrumental duo of Sara Neidorf on drums and Matt Hollenberg on electric guitars and bass (see what they are doing there with the name?). Neidorf has recorded with a number of outfits in Europe and North America. Hollenberg, of course, is known for his work with John Zorn (Simulacrum and Chaos Magick, in particular), Cleric, and Titan to Tachyons. Both are well versed in technical / progressive metal and jazz / blues improvisation.

Escape Velocity, recorded in 2019 as a follow-up to their 2017 debut EP, is primarily a heavy album. From the outset, Hollenberg provides thick riffs to accompany Neidorf’s muscular drumming. The bass lines generally follow the guitar. The duo’s pacing changes within tracks, from doomy masses of distortion, to thrash metal, to blues-based soloing from Hollenberg. And they approach this genre-stretching with an intuitive feel, intellect, and even a bit of playful wit.

To that point, most of the tracks appear to be planned out, with abrupt changes as well as complex melodies and rhythmic patterns. Some exhibit compelling and catchy hooks that repeat often enough to provide distinctiveness without growing old. Neidorf and Hollenberg also avoid relying too extensively on metal tropes, with limited double-bass drum pounding and speed picking.

For instance, Sublingual Excavation involves a slow-moving post-rock lead theme before breaking out into overdriven and chaotic passages. To Touch the Dust heads in a similar direction, with a picked acoustic main motif accompanied by synth chording. Hollenberg provides hints of Middle Eastern influences (from Zorn?) on Socotra, a track that also exhibits oddball riffs and a noir feel. Sciatic Haze is perhaps the best place to start for the curious, with spiraling guitar, ponderous chording, elaborate lead percussion from Neidorf, and a free-improv break toward the end.

This is not your parents’ metal – no stereotypes here, just a tremendously heavy and modern-sounding album with a wide variety of styles clashing in a singular fashion. Highly recommended.

Escape Velocity will be out on August 12 from Nefarious Industries.