The amazing consistency of SINISTER is even more remarkable when one considers the near-constant state of flux of their lineup. After a hiatus of several years, drummer and founder Aad Kloosterwaard has returned as the vocalist, and former bassist Alex Paul is now the guitarist! Yet despite inactivity and upheaval, "Afterburner" stands out as not only a fine slab of ferocious, unadulterated death metal, but one retaining the trademark off-the-rails riffing and heart-attack drumming that's been SINISTER's calling card since 1991.
One hallmark of "Afterburner" is the use of extended slower passages, many interspersed with movie samples. While those are a pretty worn-out studio tactic, the slow parts definitely add atmosphere, and offset the manic speed and strange start-stop upheaval of the fast sections. The rather majestic, martial passage in the middle of "Altruistic Suicide", for example, is a great shift in pace, and its build back into blast beats will incite riots in a live setting.
The slow-to-fast ratio may be a little skewed in places — "Men Down" is cool, but drags on a bit before finally launching back into those insane blasts. Elsewhere, though, these rather long songs (two over the seven-minute mark) are varied and textured, with brooding, malevolent midsections full of doomy dread. "Flesh of the Servant" even contains a little bit of NILE-style Eastern-sounding harmony guitars, which crash into a section of pure blasting mayhem, barely controlled chaos that these guys dish out better than just about anyone.
One thing I've always liked about SINISTER is their human sound — the blasts aren't always perfectly synchronized, and their riffing often goes off in unorthodox directions, or throws in arbitrary starts and stops, where others go for a more streamlined, typical sound. It's not a lot, but it sets them apart from the death metal multitudes, and gives the band an all-too-rare commodity in music this extreme — a personality. Get this album and celebrate the reanimation of a death metal living legend.