By Steven Leslie. Who doesn’t love Finnish death metal? From Amorphis to Demilich and everywhere between, Finland has produced some world-class death metal bands despite rarely getting the same level of credit their Swedish counterparts receive. Scum is one of those unheralded bands from the early Finnish sceneBy Steven Leslie.
Who doesn’t love Finnish death metal? From Amorphis to Demilich and everywhere between, Finland has produced some world-class death metal bands despite rarely getting the same level of credit their Swedish counterparts receive. Scum is one of those unheralded bands from the early Finnish scene who did manage to release a couple of solid full-lengths between 1994-95, before seemingly dropping off the face of the planet. Now, 20 years later, their third full-length Garden of Shadows has finally been released through Blood Music. Don’t be fooled by the timeframe though, this is not some has-been band coming back after years away from the scene to try and cash in on some underground nostalgia. No, this album was actually recorded 1996 and is just seeing the light of day.
Kudos go to Blood Music for recognizing that this little gem deserved to be released, even if it was a few decades late. Falling on the more melodic side of the spectrum, Garden of Shadows offers forty odd minutes of classic sounding death metal. The focus here is not on brutality or speed, but on creating striped down catchy songs that will embed themselves deep into your limbic system. Despite the lack of tempo variation, most songs stick to a doomy mid-pace cadence, there are enough quality riffs and memorable moments to ensure that you won’t get bored. Tying the album together is a somber, almost gothic overall vibe, which fits the music perfectly and helps it transcend the technical elements. For example, while the riffs and solos are excellent throughout, the rhythm section is quite plain and offers very few surprises, but do not detract significantly from the overall experience, as the emotional power over the music outshines any performance deficits. Overall, Garden of Shadows is a memorable slice of death metal history that any fan of early death metal will be happy to sink their teeth into.
|Artwork by Roger Moore|
Who doesn’t love New Zealand death metal? Okay, maybe it doesn’t have the history of Finland or Sweden, but come on, Ulcerate alone makes up for all of that right? Ulcerate is in fact a great place to start with this six-piece wrecking crew, as the band have been labeled as Ulcerate clones by some of their more vocal detractors (as if having more Ulcerate would be a bad thing). While there is certainly some crossover, especially in the angular, bludgeoning riffs they create, there are also some areas where the band diverge.
First, and most significantly, Setentia aren’t afraid to inject a little more melody into their songs. It’s this melodic element that make their quite technical riffs really stand out from the pack and allow the songs a unique character many of their modern death metal compatriots lack. Even with the extra focus on melody, they never sacrifice any of the suffocating atmosphere that makes this kind of death metal so powerful. Setentia excel at striking a balance between atmosphere, complexity and brutality, and Darkness Transcend is all the better for it.
They also aren’t afraid to let their music breathe a little bit, which allow those crushingly dense moments they share with Ulcerate to do even more damage. It’s akin getting your head out of the water just long enough for you to think you can get a breath, before another wave slams you back down with a lung-full of water as you are submerged back into your watery grave. If I have one complaint about the album, it would be the overly triggered/replaced sounding drums, which is an all too common problem in modern death metal. Despite the issue I have with the drum sound, Hugo Gravelle’s performance behind the kit is top notch, providing a rock solid backbone for the music to flow around. With Darkness Transcend Setentia have given New Zealand’s favorite sons a run for their money and established themselves as a band to watch in the pantheon of modern death metal.
[Today, Friday the 3th, Bandcamp will donate 100% of their share of any purchase you make to the American Civil Liberties Union. Additionally Blood Music will donate their share of all digital downloads purchased to ACLU, Doctors Without Borders, and No One Left Behind]