Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Sorcery - Sinister Soldiers (1978 us, dark underground basement heavy rock, 2001 reissue)

Here is a long lost monster, a true classic, an underground legend, a gem among gems. Intrigued yet? Meet SORCERY, a band whose star lit briefly from 1976 to somewhere around 1980. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois - and not to be confused with the hard rock band from California, which rose to greater prominence at almost exactly the same time the five-member band put out just two albums.

Their debut is called Sinister Soldiers and was the most impressive chapter in Sorcery’s journey as a band. A respectable length of forty-nine minutes, Sinister Soldiers was issued as a double LP. In 1978, when I was a teen, this was a real attention getter. You know, one of those you’d be likely to take home for the cover art alone. 

Sinister Soldiers certainly lives up to its title. The music is indeed dark and sinister. There is quite a variety of style on the LP. From killer Sabbath vibes to dreamy progressive psychedelia and even some punky hard rock. The first thing that should grab you is the incredible guitar solos of Paul Koster, whose is grounded in the early-seventies school of acid rock shredding. They are plentiful and intense, riding the evolutionary edge between hard rock and heavy metal. Arguably, this is an example of protometal, though I consider it leaning more heavily in the direction of hard rock.

Tim Barrett’s vocals are another standout, ranging from mellow to urgent, though there’ll be no screaming found here. He was apparently in three other Midwestern bands – Aleister Crowley, Canterbury, and Sea of Monsters– though I have never happened upon recordings from these others. The singing on Sinister Soldiers is sometimes strange, twisted, sweet, and haunting.

Kieran Hoening’s aggressive drumming is what really brings us to heavy metal, even edging into NWOBHM territory. Bear in mind that this was 1978 - though some of the songs were surely recorded earlier and this time in the feel-good decade proved to be a difficult one for heavy music of all stripes. It was a transitional period where metal was still searching for its identity. Dave Maycroft’s bass playing is basically in the doom style, but a tad more laid back. If this were more widely known - and had a better transfer from the beautiful vinyl analog, it would surely be considered a classic. 

The whole album is great, leading you on a partly cloudy trip into the depths of the mind. The stand out track for me is the 12:17 minute song, “The Last Goodbye.” It is the most psychedelic and progressive of tracks. “Snowshit” is another clear winner, being the one song with true heavy metal riffs and long, searing guitar solos. It’s a memorable song and for many of you, this will be a new favorite in your playlist.

Unfortunately, because of limited distribution, Sorcery’s classic never got its just due. Since its release, it’s become one of the rarest and most sought after protometal records of the seventies. I remember scoring my copy in a trade in the late-eighties. By the nineties, the record was valued at $1000-$1500. Now that I’m out of the collect-and-trade business, I can only imagine what the value of an original copy would go for in 2016.

Sorcery did something that hardly anyone was doing at the time and would be decades before bands experimented again with the metal-rock fusion. The extreme rarity and obscurity of this album only adds to the legend that is Sorcery’s Sinister Soldiers.
by Papa Paul, Nov. 22 2016
1. Arachnic (The Dark King) (Dave Maycroft, Kieran Hoening, Kirk Bryk, Paul Koster) - 3:58
2. Fly The Sky - 2:59
3. Sugar Sweet Lady (Debbie's Song) (Kirk Bryk) - 4:09
4. Last Good-Bye - 12:16
5. Slippin' Away (For K.E.R.) - 4:07
6. Snowshit - 9:21
7. Airborne - 4:58
8. Sorcerer - 3:22
9. Schitzoid - 4:22
All songs by Kirk Bryk, Tim Barret except where noted

*Tim Barret - Lead Vocals
*Kirk Bryk - Vocals, Lead Guitar, Bass, Synthesizer, Percussion
*Paul Koster - Guitar, Vocals 
*Dave Maycroft - Bass
*Kieran Hoening - Drums
*Chuck Dorrinton - Bass (Track 2)