PICK OF THE WEEK: Trio Sanhedrin direct focus on societal issues, cracks in justice with ‘Lights On’

Photo by Suzanne Abramson

The past few years have done plenty to so many of us, one of the largest thing being we have been ripped out of our comfort zones. That’s both good and bad. Being out in public and spending time around people is more difficult and riskier due this ongoing virus, but during that time, we finally have learned hard lessons about power structures and oppression, despite some burying their heads in sand.

Brooklyn-based traditional metal trio Sanhedrin has not been immune to this either, and their new record “Lights On” directly confronts a lot of these issues and more, making it a record that sounds incredible but also refuses to shy away from hard lessons. The band members—vocalist/bassist Erica Stoltz, guitarist Jeremy Sosville, drummer Nathan Honor—personally were impacted, suffering the loss of family and the fact that they had to work on this new record isolated from one another, but they powered through and created their most impressive record so far. This is full of energy and metallic glory, helping you revel in their gritty glory.

“Correction” is a punchy, direct opener that takes on the last two years of our lives without pulling punches. “Dead of winter 2020, a plague is on the rise,” Stoltz howls as the guitars pick up, and the pace gets the energy going. “When every child becomes a human sacrifice and everybody’s seeing darkness in the light,” Stoltz lashes over the bridge before the chorus, and the band keeps dashing harder and harder to the end. The title track is a blazing force, Stoltz reminding, “History is a vicious circle,” a lesson we’ve learned too often especially the last two years with Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and so many others being robbed of justice. The pace is defiant, the guitars rip into your nervous system, and the chorus rushes again, ending the track in flames. “Lost at Sea” is stormy and hazy when it begins, punching through the verses, making things bloody and rowdy. “Seven generations lost at sea,” Stoltz laments as strong soloing takes off, and the final moments flatten and leave you heaving on the floor. “Change Takes Forever” delivers great riffs, a total assault, and another message about how trying to make a positive impact in society often faces roadblocks. “It’s now or never!” Stoltz calls, trying to ignite those fires that often take so long to spark, and the soloing adds an extra dose of desperation, giving off an incredible classic metal jolt.

“Code Blue” delivers something missing from much in heavy music anymore: a classic bolt of sexual desire. “Code blue, code blue, I want you,” Stoltz declares over the chorus, and the playing is bluesy as hell, psychedelic in other spots, and everything here properly scorches. “Scythian Women” is an anthem honoring female warriors discovered buried in Russia, and it brings a fast, chugging approach, totally melting flesh from bone. “Nothing can stop them, they are the wind,” Stoltz declares as the bass rumbles and the guitars blaze, ending the track in a blast of power. “Hero’s End” plays with elements of a classic power ballad and formative roots of heavy metal, just nailing all the right buttons. The verses take their time building the structure, and the chorus just slams home the intent, making the hairs stand on your arms. The music is powerful and impossible to shake, and when Stoltz wails, “All hope is fading,” it eats into your heart and mind. Closer “Death Is a Door” is the longest track at 7:04, and it starts with the drums rolling in echo and the playing taking its time to develop an ambiance. The track then bursts to life as the playing jars, and Stoltz calls, “Live for survival, you’re pushing too hard.” Hearty woah-oh-oh calls get your adrenaline going, the guitars lap, and Stoltz’s reminder that, “I think we’re in denial,” is that last stab trying to wake up a society easily lulled to sleep.

Not only do Sanhedrin deliver one hell of a fiery heavy metal record with “Lights On,” they’re another band who decided to use their voice to shine a light on the problems in our country and world and refuse to shy away from them. This band always has been one of the more powerful banner carriers for classic metal, but with this record, they’ve created something incredibly special and powerful. This is Sanhedrin’s finest moment, and this is a record that carries a message that still need to be amplified so those asleep finally are jarred awake.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sanhedrinband

To buy the album, go here: https://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords

For more on the label, go here: https://www.metalblade.com/us/