Sanguine Glacialis
Maladaptive Daydreaming

As the days and months and years keep piling up, it’s become more clear to me than ever that the idea of growing “mature with age” can mean two very different things: There’s the literal, more widely recognized notion where time and experience allows you to take stock of the things that actually matter in life – focus your time and energy into balancing life’s responsibilities while taking the necessary time to foster a happy, healthy existence not just for yourself, but the people you care about. Then there’s the other side of the coin, where “becoming mature” is really just a nice way of saying “becoming a miserable old fuck.” I watched it happen to my father. I’m watching it happen with my father-in-law. In too many ways, I’ve realized it’s started to happen to me.

In truth, it’s all-too-easy for me to use any number of outside excuses to explain my growing resentment towards the world in general (one that seems hellbent on making existence for almost everyone harder and harder by the day) but ultimately, I also have to keep myself accountable. What am I doing to bring more joy to my life? How can I create a future self that I don’t already loathe?

Well, to start – maybe take a cue from Montreal’s Sanguine Glacialis, who seem to be having a blast defying norms and setting their own course in the world of metal.

This is my first foray into the world of Sanguine Glacialis, but straight-away a few things become clear. First, the band’s roots in Montreal’s unique Epic Metal scene show themselves almost immediately. This isn’t meant to draw exact comparisons, but their mix of soaring Melodic Death Metal, epic symphonic orchestrations and sprawling, picture-painting progressive tendencies certainly fall in line with the likes of Blackguard, Karkaos, and the technical weirdness of Quo VadisThis is all mixed with the drama and pantomime of Fleshgod ApocalypseNekrogoblikon or Carach Angren that make Maladaptive Daydreaming a thoroughly engaging, highly entertaining listen. Tracks like “Immuration” or the especially playful “Resilience” make you feel as though you’ve stumbled into the world’s most demented, mind-bending circus after downing a few shots of ayahuasca, where every step further feels like another connection severed from the grips of sense and sanity.

Second, while every member of this outfit deserves their fair share of credit for creating this magnum opus, you can’t help but be especially in awe of vocalist and keyboardist Maude Théberge, whose angelic soprano is at constant battle with her demonic alter-ego, unleashing an impressive array of hell-born shrieks, screams and growls at a moment’s notice. Her ability to deftly bounce back and forth between moments of grace, grandeur and ghastly horror only further paint a picture of onset madness and inner quarreling. If you’re like me, unfamiliar with the band’s prior work, prepare to be hit square in the chest with her first terrifying screams on “Welcome,” which catch you totally off guard after a beautiful, soaring intro sets you up for a much different kind of experience. Follow-up “Immuration” only further cements her depth of talent, particularly in the song’s final 30 seconds where, after impressing with complex, operatic singing through most of the song’s duration, she unleashes some truly breath-taking screams that feel as though she’s reached even further into the nine circles of hell to create. I’m not just impressed, I’m a little scared! In the best way.

My fear only grows deeper with “Paracusia,” which sees Théberge storming out the gate with full-fledged ferocity, taking an extremely aggressive approach with her vocals that match the intensity of the song’s first movement beautifully. After a brief break, the band returns with more Parisian, circus-like music mixed with her serene cleans, as if she’s finally snapped and finds herself lost in a maelstrom of lunacy, fully embracing her own manic state as she deploys a dual-vocal attack of cleans and screams that all but tear the fabric of reality apart. There’s an undeniable darkness always bubbling underneath the surface, and yet the vibrancy in the band’s delivery still manages to inspire joy, putting a grin on your face with every hairpin turn.

As if her vocals weren’t enough to demand your attention, it’s also her well-balanced synth/piano work that really sets the entire scene of Maladaptive Daydreaming. It pulls off a clever trick of not being overbearing, while also making it difficult to image what this album might sound like without them – a perfect compliment to the chaos that help make what is a very emotionally-charged record, somehow bright and vibrant. That’s certainly not to suggest this record would be lost without that element – the rest of the band, including guitarists Jonathan Fontaine and Alexandre Lépine, along with bassist Marc Gervais and drummer Jérémy Racine, all turn in performances that would please fans hungry for the sheer technicality of Ne Obliviscaris or Cynic, or the earworm melodic brilliance of Be’Lakor or Kalmah. They can get downright brutal, too – with “Ars Moriendi,” closer “Resignation,” and plenty of others showcasing moments of utter heft ready to put your stank face on full display. The band’s ability to perfectly balance all the ideas bouncing around in their collective hive mind has the sort of artists’ touch that create a wholly cohesive, yet incredibly layered picture, not unlike the best works of art that can inspire different thoughts and emotions every time you see them.

I really, really dig what Sanguine Glacialis is offering with Maladaptive Daydreaming. The sense of whimsy and wonder, coupled with a very real sense of dread and foreboding under the surface, it all feels like the sort of balance I’d really like to find in my own life, because if I’m being truly honest with myself – the darkness in my life probably ain’t ever going away. Not completely. It’s as much a part of me as any physical trait. That said, it doesn’t have to be the definition of me, or some inescapable conclusion I’m fated to reach, and discovering an album like this only helps to steel my resolve not to let misery become my destiny. Life is short, and it seems Sanguine Glacialis isn’t wasting any of their time trying to follow anyone’s idea of what metal can or should be, and the end result on Maladaptive Daydreaming should carry them to brand new heights. Make this album part of your life pronto.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
August 24th, 2023

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