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Sadus: Extreme Thrash Metal From California

I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

"Swallowed In Black" (1990)

"Swallowed In Black" (1990)

Sadus Attack!

My first encounter with the music of Sadus was in 1990, when my brother came home from the record store with their then-current release, Swallowed In Black. I enjoyed thrash metal just as much as the next teenage deviant, but when I first heard this LP, I couldn't quite wrap my head around what this Antioch, California-based four piece was doing. "Utter chaos" would be a good way to describe the sounds of lightning-speed musical destruction that blasted from our rec room stereo.

Sadus started to "click" with me a few months later when we saw them opening for Obituary and Sepultura at the legendary Brooklyn, New York rock club, "L'amour." The thing I remember most about their set that night was vocalist/guitarist Darren Travis' bug-eyed, unhinged expression as he stood at center stage, spitting out lyrics at a thousand miles an hour. His delivery was so intense that I thought he might keel over from a stroke.

The band fed off of the carnage going on in the audience that night, crushing everything in their path and delivering their short set with admirable, stop-on-a-dime technical precision. I was officially intrigued, and I wanted to hear more.

So Who the Heck Is Sadus, Anyway?

Thrash metal was slowly giving way to the burgeoning death metal scene by the end of the '80s, and Sadus' music further blurred the lines between the two genres. On their self-released debut Illusions (1988, later reissued as Chemical Exposure), 1989's Swallowed in Black, and 1992's A Vision of Misery, Sadus displayed the speed and technical chops that appealed to adventurous thrash listeners, while their overall sledgehammer brutality brought in the death heads.

If Darren Travis had opted for a deeper, growling vocal style, Sadus might have been considered a straight-up death metal band (and they probably would've sold more records), but instead he stuck to a snarling, throaty, punk-ish delivery punctuated with occasional insane screeches ala Kreator's Mille Petrozza.

"A Vision Of Misery" (1992)

"A Vision Of Misery" (1992)

The First Three Sadus Albums

No matter which Sadus album you put on, your first impression is likely to be "Holy crap, these guys are FAST!" Hyper-speed stuff like this always runs the risk of turning into a confused, sloppy mess, but Sadus always managed to lock together and stay tight as hell, which is no mean feat.

Chemical Exposure (Illusions)

Chemical Exposure aka Illusions is the rawest sounding of their first three discs, containing some of their most legendary tracks like "Sadus Attack" (Travis' scream of "AAAAAA-TAAAAAACK!" will peel the skin off your face!) and "Torture," which contains the immortal lyric "We need D.T.P.—Death To Posers is what I mean!"

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Swallowed in Black

Swallowed in Black (which, by the way, sports one of the most bad-ass album covers in thrash/death metal history, hands down) has a cleaner sounding production job than its predecessor, but it doesn't take away from the high-speed mayhem. Check out the blistering highlight tracks "Black" and "Good Rid'nz" for the proof.

A Vision of Misery

A Vision of Misery found the band stretching into even MORE complex territory, if that's even possible. On tracks like "Through The Eyes of Greed," "Valley of Dry Bones," "Machines" and the awesome, epic-length "Facelift," Sadus manages to increase the brutality quotient by pulling the throttle back to add some crushing, slow-n-doomy bits.

Original Pressings and Reissues

In a nutshell, you can't really go wrong with any of Sadus' albums if you're in the mood for some good ol' fashioned cranium-crushing, poser-killing extreme thrash. Original Roadrunner pressings of their albums are now long out of print and have become pricey collector's items, but the albums have been reissued several times by such labels as Metal Mind, Listenable, and Displeased Records, so copies should be fairly easy to come by.

Warning: Misprints

However, I have a brief word of caution for collectors regarding the Metal Mind Productions reissues from 2006. Some copies of the Swallowed in Black and A Vision of Misery CDs were misprinted—the Swallowed CD had the songs from Vision of Misery on it, and vice versa. Needless to say, this caused quite a bit of confusion when I acquired those discs because it had been quite a few years since I'd heard the band. It took a few listens before I figured out what the problem was, haha!

Whatever Happened to Sadus?

Sadus was dropped from Roadrunner Records' roster after A Vision of Misery, but they carried on into the 21st century, releasing two further studio albums (1997's Elements of Anger and 2006's Out for Blood) and playing occasional live shows.

Sadus bassist Steve DiGiorgio has become one of the most in-demand session players in the metal underground, recording and touring with bands like Testament, Iced Earth, Death, Control Denied, Charred Walls of the Damned, and even former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach!

Metal-Archives still lists Sadus as an "active" band, but the only current members still in the lineup are guitarist/vocalist Darren Travis and drummer Jon Allen. Only time will tell if the Sadus Attack will rise again!

Sadus Discography

  • Illusions: Self-released, 1988 (reissued in 1991 as Chemical Exposure)
  • Swallowed in Black: Roadrunner, 1989
  • A Vision of Misery: Roadrunner, 1992
  • Elements of Anger: Mascot, 1997
  • Chronicles of Chaos (compilation): Mascot, 1997
  • Out for Blood: Mascot, 2006

© 2018 Keith Abt

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