REVIEW: AngelMaker – Sanctum [2022]

Artist: AngelMaker
Album: Sanctum

Everyone has a “safe space,” whether you want to call it that or not–someplace comfortable and unique to you that instills calm and dispels unease and anxiety. It can be a place that–despite one’s views on religion–can even become sacred. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a place; it can be a person, an idea or even a thing. For me, it’s always been heavy music (at least since around the age of 13-14, before that I’m pretty sure it was my Nintendo 64 and early Eminem CDs). When it comes to heavy music, personally, there’s nothing that hits quite like deathcore does–and when it comes to deathcore, more objectively, there’s no one that quite does it like AngelMaker does. Combining symphonic and technical elements into a backbone of nostalgic, traditional deathcore, this crushing Canadian sextet have blossomed into one of the scene’s most revered up-and-coming acts–and on their long-awaited full length release, Sanctum, not much changes except for one thing: they can no longer be considered up-and-coming. Sanctum is the band’s most sprawling and sinister (not to mention comprehensive) release to date, and across its fifteen tracks, it brings the listener everything from brutalizing aggression to awe-inspiring atmosphere. In short, for anyone who finds release or solace in heavy music (if you’re reading this, I bet you do), Sanctum stands to be exactly what its namesake implies.
Most people reading this have probably already heard a significant amount of Sanctum before its release given the record’s release campaign—but if you’re like me, and plan to tackle the release with as little forewarning as possible, you’re in for a treat. Sanctum is a sprawling effort that is deathcore to the very…well, core. Laden with lacerating percussion that rends skin from bone and jarring, immense riffs that transition expertly into skull-splitting breakdowns, there is no shortage of aggression and energy to be found throughout AngelMaker’s forthcoming onslaught. Songs like “Vengeance,” alongside “Gutless” and the brief-but-blistering “Oppressive Control” see AngelMaker at perhaps their most aggressive, with a stunning cavalcade of percussion that flattens the listener without effort or remorse. Similarly, the fretwork throughout “Gutless” and “Lazarus” is tremendous, working in dialectic beauty with the rapid-fire percussion to throw the listener in a figurative sonic woodchipper, The band blend technicality and unrelenting brutality in an artistic manner that demands recognition—but that isn’t all they do. Songs like “What I Would Give” or the “Wither”/“Bloom” duo highlight the band’s ability to incorporate near-soothing melody into the mix. Here, the drumming is a little less scathing and instead works with the bold, robust bass to create a groovy firmament from which ethereal fretwork can spring forth from. “What I Would Give”—a poignant track among a herd of horrendously heavy assbeaters—sees AngelMaker at their most refined and balanced without a doubt, crafting a song that plays towards the bands more melodic and atmospheric elements without sounding out of place, truly adding a new dimension to their dynamic.
Just as AngelMaker’s instrumentation is a touch extra in the best sense of the word, the listener gets more than they expect from the instrumental component as well. Home to two tremendous titans of the throat (which would make a solid adult film title), AngelMaker’s vocal element is second-to-none. Following in the footsteps of Despised icon and The Irish Front’s use of dual vocals in an oppressively heavy act, AngelMaker continue to hone and sharpen their screams, guttural bellows and roars on Sanctum. Songs like “Exit Signs” see the band’s vocal dynamic at its most full and diverse, with just about every style imaginable coming to life. Other songs—like the personal favorite, “Vengeance”—see crowd vocals and shrill screams blended together for a righteous throwback to days filled with neon colors, block-print band merch and animated MySpace layouts. The takeaway is that AngelMaker are an incredible diverse band who manage to take on just about style of heavy music imaginable on Sanctum and come out with perfection, or something damned close to it.
I think the word deathcore showed up close to ten times in this review—eleven, if you count that, I guess—and while it might seem lazy, I’d argue that there really isn’t another way to describe AngelMaker in an incredibly efficient manner. Talented? Yeah. Heavy? Absolutely. Technical, immense, br00tal, groovy—all good words too, but at the end of the day, AngelMaker are a deathcore band—and one of the best at that. Sanctum is a stellar record which captures the essence of an embattled genre and distills it into something that is not only impressive, but beyond fun to listen to. If you’re looking for solace in the world of heavy music, look no further, as you’ve found it in Sanctum.

For Fans Of: Oceano, Lorna Shore, Carnifex, Distant, Brand of Sacrifice
By: Connor Welsh