Sadistik, “Oblivion Theater”
By Phillip Mlynar · February 21, 2024

Sadistik has been sketching out a haunted hip-hop world since 2008’s The Balancing Act. That project was independently released via the Seattle-raised, L.A.-based MC’s own label Clockwork Grey Music, and marked the successful debuted of a rap narrator skilled at utilizing a syllable precise flow to relay noir-y visions alongside forays into the shadowy side of the human psyche. Now part of North Carolina producer L’Orange’s Old Soul Music stable, Sadistik’s latest release furthers the MC’s brand of contemporary, psychological horror rap in fittingly harrowing fashion.

Album opener “Hypodermic Forest” depicts the anti-hero MC wandering through a landscape populated by Rottweiler gargoyles, eerily syncopated mockingbirds, and silhouettes that resemble vampires. “Cardboard sign under bridge said ‘Only God saves’/ Stray dog, lost concrete/ Hypodermic forest slowly starts to crumble from the shockwaves,” raps Sadistik over growling bass and craggy drums courtesy of Maulskull, the Denver-based beatsmith responsible for the album’s sonics. His production across the project’s 13 songs frequently draws on moody synths that feel like they still have the residue of an ‘80s smoke machine caked into them.

As Oblivion Theater hits full stride, it starts to feel as if Sadistik is navigating a rigged universe, one where the chances of solace and survival are out of reach. “Who hurt you? Gloom’s universal,” shrugs Sadistik on “All The Colors Of The Dark.” It’s a sentiment shared by guest Krayzie Bone, who closes out the song by clutching to extinction theory as if it’s a security blanket: “This fire was started by humans but we can’t extinguish it/ So I guess we’re just gon’ burn/ Our demise is imminent.” On “A Jubilee Of Rot,” the MC roams an environment of “broken skies” and “pissy streets” before realizing his plans for escape have been dashed: “I moved to L.A. for a brighter sun/ Clouds seem to follow when we seem to run.” During “Alaskan Snow,” Sadistik concludes that, “home is where the heart is, not the product of its whereabouts,” recounting his family history in emotionally raw language.

Throughout Oblivion, Sadistik seems to suggest that it might be better to embrace your demons as a form of company rather than soldier on in solitary silence. On the moving album-closer “In A Maze Made Of Glass,” Sadistik searches in vain for a safe haven—only to become trapped in the song’s titular labyrinth. The track is bookended by a sample from Polish director Andrzej Żuławski’s 1981 surrealist horror flick Possession. “I can’t exist by myself because I’m afraid of myself,” confesses actress Isabelle Adjani’s voice, before exposing the uncomfortable truth at the heart of Oblivion Theater: “Because I’m the maker of my own evil.”

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