There is no doubt that Steve Sylvester has written history with Death SS. They were one one of the first Italian doom/heavy metal bands who connected the dark imagery of the Alice Cooper Band with the occult content of bands such as Black Sabbath or Black Widow. And so it's not much of a surprise that early Death SS also had an impact on groups like early Cathedral, Northwinds or Internal Void. In addition, one should not forget that Paul Chain also started his career in Death SS. Since then, 34 years have gone by and I must say that I lost interest in Death SS after 'Do What Thou Wilt'. I got the impression that they were desperately trying to achieve some sort of new-fangled metal sound. What is even worse is the fact that they mutated into a trivial technoid gothic/dark metal band who completely ingnored their musical past. For me as an old fan of Death SS it was painful to watch their musical development.
Thus, I was very pleased and surprised when I noticed that Steve Sylvester has joined forces with his old friend Thomas Hand Chaste (Witchfield) who was the drummer in the first lineup of Death SS. Additionally, he recruited another Death SS veteran, namely bass player Danny Hughes. To that we can add guitarist Frederick Dope and keyboarder John Di Lallo and there you have SANCTA SANCTORUM. 'The Shining Darkness' is their debut album, released by Black Widow Records in 2010, and on the basis of the lineup it is therefore entirely logical that SANCTA SANCTORUM bares a striking resemblance to early Death SS. Even though there are some psychedelic leanings, it is unequivocally clear that this album is firmly connected to 1970's hardrock. However, 'The Shining Darkness' is more located on the darker side of rock, or to be more precise, it is pitch black and at times rather depressing. But that is exactly what I want when it comes to occult-tinged hardrock that is over-saturated with doom. It's the real deal and not some pathetic, infantile crap as we know it from bands as, for example, The Devil's Blood or Ghost (Rise Above Records). SANCTA SANCTORUM are serious about their attitude of mind and I respect these views just because of Steve Sylvester's past. After all, Death SS wrote about horror and occultism at a time when it became unfashionable, i.e. 1977.
But back to topic. One of the good things about 'The Shining Darkness' are the vocals of Steve Sylvester, because they have lost none of their morbid and sinister charisma. But also in other areas, SANCTA SANCTORUM do their job pretty good. The organ gives the songs it's necessary 1970's vibe while Frederick Dope has a keen sense for the right riffs. Fortunately the album production is neither slicky nor overproduced, but rather grubby and filthy. This fits in ideally with the joyless atmosphere of this record. One of the most intense tracks is 'When Hopes Are All Gone' which is the perfect soundtrack for your personal downfall. In contrary, there is 'The Soul Of Truth', a hard rocking track that kicks serious ass. As usual, I won't bore you with a detailed analysis, but let me tell you that 'The Shining Darkness' is packed with strong songs. I can only hope that SANCTA SANCTORUM will record more material in the course of time, because this is a very promising start. Just forget about all the soulless imitators, because this is, as previously mentioned, the real deal. You'll also get an appealing and top-quality packaging as one is used from Black Widow Records. All in all, 'The Shining Darkness' is recommended very much.