Trad metal warriors Sanhedrin inject power, melodic strength into blood-jolting ‘The Poisoner’

The spirit of true heavy metal never will die. It can’t. It’s too strong. It has survived just about everything, including its pronounced death in the 1990s when grunge owned the world, only to flick that style’s young corpse back into the swamp from whence it came. No matter what, despite all the offshoots of the style that get heavier and mangier, true metal always will have a broad sword.

Part of the reason for this is new bands keep popping up that pay homage to the sound mightily and effectively, and one of those is Brooklyn-based trad warriors Sanhedrin. In not even a handful of years, the trio has plied their trade and proved their wares on a couple of full-length records, the latest being “The Poisoner.” There really isn’t a true center point for this group—comprised of vocalist/bassist Erica Stoltz (formerly of Amber Asylum), guitarist Jeremy Sosville (of Black Anvil), and drummer Nathan Honor (late of crossover thrashers Vermefüg)—as the three immerse themselves in epic and power metal in spots but also tread the sounds that would have made them MTV fodder had they been around 30 years ago when all kinds of bands like this got Headbanger’s Ball airtime regularly. For me, who grew up on this type of thing, it’s a welcome feeling that does make me feel nostalgic but that’s not all the music has. There’s a definite modern touch and a precision to what they do that makes this eight-track, nearly 42-minute record feel so exciting.

“Meditation (All My Gods are Gone)” starts the record with heavy hitting from all sides, with Stoltz wailing, “Sometimes you are the hunter, sometimes you are the prey,” as the band keeps things rolling. The chorus rises up and is easy to repeat even after the song is over, and the soloing scorches with soulful flair. “Wind on the Storm” has strong riffs, with the vocals powering, and the track sending jolts. “Brace yourself, your head between your knees,” Stoltz calls as a fiery solo tears through, and the track ends with the chorus rounding back for more. “Blood From a Stone” has the guitars striking and the band hitting a power metal surge that cuts to the bone. Later on, the song thrashes a little harder, the soloing ignites, and everything ends in a cloud of dust. The title track is really strong, arguably the best on the record, and it features Stoltz’s former Amber Asylum bandmate Kris Force on violin, adding a chilling element to the song. “We are like Judas, we are doomed for all time,” Stoltz sings as the song rises and falls, exploring anger, disappointment, and disgust all at once, especially when she accuses her subject matter of “twisting words into poison.” Later on, the rage boils over, the strings amp up the emotion, and the track ends with a defiant stand.

“The Getaway” gets going with the drums smashing the surface and the vocals following a similar pattern as “Runaway” by Bon Jovi (this is the first ever Bon Jovi reference on this site … treat yourself to a doughnut or something). The chorus is great and super catchy as Stoltz sings about someone quickly losing control warning, “You’ll be dead before the light.” “For the Wicked” has a fast start with gruffer vocals and a total traditional approach to the music. The soloing kicks in and scorches, while the song has a blistering, fun finish. “Saints and Sinners” lets the punches fly with crunchy verses and Stoltz howling, “It’s the killer in me recognizing the killer in you.” Some psychedelic soloing is unleashed while the drums take over and the track lands body blows. “In From the Outside” ends the record, getting mesmerizing out front with the verses pulled back some and Stoltz’s singing coming in raspier. “Snake in the grass, crawling in the weeds,” she observes, while the guitars ring out and remind of classic Maiden. The riffs round back, as does the chorus, and the track comes to a trippy, trickling end.

Sanhedrin make enthralling music that works on two levels, in that you can take the music and words together and get the full picture, or you can just listen to the album and fill yourself with true metal magic. I recommend the former, as there’s obviously a lot beneath the surface that deserves your undivided attention, and it will make “The Poisoner” a meatier, more aggressive listen. As long as we have bands such as Sanhedrin around and creating great music, the lifeblood will flow through metal’s roots forever and ever.

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