That a band formed by PALE DIVINE veteran John Gaffney (bass) does not suck is no real shock. That the self-titled debut from Allentown, PA's SINISTER REALM is such a finely crafted and seamless blend of classic doom and classic metal may not be the stuff of dropped jaws, but the sheer quality level and genuineness of the approach is at least mildly surprising. Then again, this is Shadow Kingdom Records that we are talking about, a label that has made a name for itself in the world of classic metal and doom.
Riffs, riffs, and more riffs; there is a ton of good ones here to go with some distinguished melodies, led by the smooth, mid-range doom voice of Alex Kristof. The guitar solos sizzle as well. Overall, consider a mix of CANDLEMASS style doom (occasionally punctuated with a little SABBATH and a little TROUBLE), a fair amount of '70s-era JUDAS PRIEST (mainly the "Sad Wings of Destiny" era), and some good ole' bass popping, pre-Dickinson IRON MAIDEN (Gaffney's work is audible, thick, and active).
The album primarily moves at a mid-tempo pace and never bogs down, though a number like opener "(The Oracle) Into the Depths of Hell" (a riff roller with a beautiful section of keyboards and twin leads toward the end) is a quick stepper. The aforementioned influences are prevalent, yet the band does not lose its identity in the process, whether riding a marching rhythm, catchy riff, and even catchier chorus on "Machine God" (CANDLEMASS meets JUDAS PRIEST), the traditional doom of "March of the Damned" and "The Circle is Broken" (CANDLEMASS) with a more pronounced, distinctive, melodic chorus), the exultant melodic doom of "Message from Beyond" (featuring a "Heaven and Hell"-era SABBATH middle acoustic/keyboard section) or the excellent instrumental "Enter the Sinister Realm" (early IRON MAIDEN with more great bass playing from Gaffney). You may have surmised that "filler" is not a word with which the members of SINISTER REALM are familiar.
The recommendation here is one easily made. If you are a fan of traditional heavy metal or doom, or better yet, a fanatical follower of bands that mix the styles then SINISTER REALM is the band for you. And to think I almost forgot to review this album.