Retro-Review: ‘Diabolical Summoning’ by Sinister

I have to admit, I’ve been looking forward to reviewing Sinister’s Diabolical Summoning all year.

Back in the day of metal magazines, particularly Metal Maniacs for me, you’d see a lot of music labels buy full-page advertisements for the many, many albums they were releasing. Diabolical Summoning was among these.

I didn’t know anything about Sinister aside from them probably being a death metal band. You couldn’t find their albums anywhere around me and we didn’t have YouTube.

But man, I wanted that album.

Why?

Because of the cover art. That piece of work by Wes Benscoter is simply eye catching and just activates that little voice that says “I want to know more” within you.

Now here we are, 25 years later and I’m listening.

Like I expected, Sinister is death metal. Brutal, straight forward death metal.

Not that they need to be any sort of death metal.

Sinister’s lineup on Diabolical Summoning is vocalist Mike van Mastrigt, who delivers a throat ripping, if somewhat Cookie Monster sounding, performance. Not that sounding like Cookie Monster takes away from the music … I just have children under five at home and many, many death vocalist just happen to sound like Cookie Monster to me now.

Andre Tolhuizen plays guitar and is probably the MVP of the album. His ability to both deliver crushingly fast riffs and chilly melodies helps give Diabolical Summoning its rather distinctive feel. Drummer Aad Kloosterwaard does a fantastic job of driving the band forward with his blast beats, able to switch pretty seamlessly from the speed to mid-paced sections.

I’m not sure what to say about Bart van Wallenberg’s performance, he seems to pop in and out at various points of the album, delivering short bass solos before being pushed into the backgrounds. You can hear him, but he’s really buried behind Kloosterwaard and Tolhuizen.

The album

Diabolical Summoning is pretty much the definition of standard death metal at the time. Sinister doesn’t really break any new ground with the album, but they do deliver a pretty solid listening experience.

Like with a lot of death metal albums from the time period, the songs are all over the place. Every song has so many different riffs and movements that it can be difficult to pick out what makes a certain song different from the others.

I know that’s one thing a lot of death metal fans love, but for many others, it can come off as a little off putting because of the sheer volume of stuff.  Looking back on early 1990s death metal, you’ll hear very different sorts of songwriting by bands whose songs endured, like Death and Carcass, and those whose songs sort of faded after the first listen, like Sinister.

Now, I’m not saying the mess sounds bad, it just hurts the memorability of the songs, in my opinion and can unintentionally lead to many of them sounding the same — especially with blast beat sections every 30 seconds to one minute apart.

Case and point, the first two songs “Sadistic Intent” and “Magnified Wrath.” Sure, they don’t sound alike, but there’s so many different riffs crammed into them that the only thing that sticks out is Wallenberg’s short bass solos and Tolhuizen’s melodies.

Yeah, there are good sections to those two songs, but they get lost in the bigger picture.

Are there any standouts on this album?

Sure, the title song “Diabolical Summoning” is pretty good. It’s a solid death metal track that sounds like it’s going to run you over then grind you to mush. The band sounds its best here with Wallenberg being audible and Tolhuizen delivering some great slicing melodies. “Diabolical Summoning” is what a death metal song should be: loud, explosive and violent.

Desecrated Flesh” is another pretty good one, with a guitar harmony that elevates it with what I’d call subtlety. For the most part, Sinister stays focused on this song, concentrating on a couple of riffs, which helps make it more memorable and in turn stronger as a song. They hold back from doing the blast beats on the most part, which is a good thing, though they do inevitably show up.

The closing track, “Mystical Illusions” is also pretty good. It’s got a more epic sound than the rest of the album and is kind of a highlight reel of the rest of the album.

The verdict

Diabolical Summoning is a pretty typical death metal album for the time. Not bad, not great, pretty much what you’d expect. It shows why you don’t really hear about Sinister like you do many of their contemporaries, like Suffocation and Gorguts, who were continuing to evolve.

Sinister didn’t push the envelope and didn’t try anything new with Diabolical Summoning. While there were still a lot of fans of this approach, aka staying the same, at the time, in the long term, it led to the album being overshadowed by many other albums released in 1993.

Now, I know Sinister has released other albums since then and I’ll probably check them out. But as far as Diabolical Summoning, I can’t recommend it for anyone but the people who really love rather standard early 90s death metal.

I still like the cover art though.


Australian Amazon Shoppers, click here to purchase DIABOLICAL SUMMONING (UK)

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