A man staggers from his horse, falling to his knees at the bank of the river. With difficulty he shrugs off his armor, his hands stained russet with the remnants of his passage. He presses a hand to his side, and it comes away darker, mixing his own lifeblood with that of his enemies’. He takes off his helm and drops his halberd in the rocks at the edge of the river. With great effort he crawls towards the water, his right fist clenching and unclenching, filled with bloody gravel. Then he is at the stream; he has arrived. The warrior plunges his hands deep into the river, splashing cool water on his rugged, upturned face. For a moment, at least, he feels peace descend on his spirit, and he forgets the terrible deeds that have gone before. He has come through the storm, through death, and has found hope and forgiveness in the cleansing waters of the stream.
How can a music album evoke such a strong image? Melding the bone-crushing heaviness of traditional death metal with a symphonic background, Blood Thirsty’s debut album Sanguine River Absolution is a call to battle for the stalwart metal fan. The one-man project, led by Derek Corzine, is influenced by bands such as Crimson Thorn and Cannibal Corpse; however, through the shredding guitars and bone-jarring drumming, melodic portions more reminiscent of bands such as Extol and Dimmu Borgir float to the surface. Continuing in the vein of his band Syringe, Corzine writes intense, driving melodic guitar riffs that should please fans of In Flames and Immortal Souls.
“Slaughtering Sin” begins with a deep, chugging guitar line reminiscent of Meshuggah, but it’s clear that this a horse of a different color as the keys come in after a few moments. Throughout the record, Corzine does an excellent job of paying tributes to some of the greats in death metal without merely aping or reproducing what these bands have accomplished. At one moment heavy bass and down-tuned guitar have me convinced I’m listening to Broken Flesh; the next moment my senses are indulged by a melodic portion that wouldn’t be out of place on an Extol record. “Mercy of the Storm” is one of the most epic and refined tracks on Sanguine River Absolution. The guitar line falls like a deluge of acid rain, bringing to mind I Built the Cross; a chugging, audible bass line is the proverbial cherry on top of the milkshake. “When the Flesh Explodes” takes the band briefly into thrash metal territory and also showcases higher-pitched black metal shrieks. “Scared to Death” boasts the most unique guitar work on the album, alternating between scaling riffs and orchestral portions. The song is further bolstered by skillfully executed time changes and slamming bass lines that immediately bring to mind Mortification’s Steve Rowe during the Scrolls era. Sanguine River Absolution ends with “Behold, the Fire,” which is certainly a unique track. From the screams of tortured souls to the uplifting guitar solo at the end of the track, the listener will certainly find an engaging experience.
Overall, the album fits together very well and each instrument is executed professionally, which is no given with a one-man band. Vocals, guitar, and bass really shine on this record; however, one area for improvement would be in the drumming. I was looking for a few more detailed fills and perhaps even a solo or two; setting up a drum pattern that is then taken on by the guitars and developed throughout the song would be fitting here. The production on the record is solid, but I feel that it could be improved in regards to orchestration. The orchestration sounds a bit thin and reedy in a few areas. A solid plus, though, is that the orchestration is mixed at the right level compared to the other instruments; it isn’t drowned out or overbearing. Overall, this is a record that is intelligently put together. Blood Thirsty captivates the senses and doesn’t let go until the last chord fades out.
While fans of traditional death metal will find tons of material to enjoy on Sanguine River Absolution, the album is especially tailored with fans of bands like Renascent, Extol, Dimmu Borgir, and Betraying the Martyrs in mind. Derek Corzine is an experienced metal man, and in terms of a debut album, Blood Thirsty has nailed it. It doesn’t get much better than this.