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This is probably the most confusing album I have ever heard. When I first heard this album, I felt like chunking out the CD from my window and wishing that I'd never heard the disaster called "The Undercurrent," but I kept on going back to it, given Scarve's previous merits, and soon, I couldn't stop headbanging and listening in awe to such fantastic metal.
Coming off the heels of their outstanding "Irradiant," the Frenchmen faced a lot of problems with clean vocalist Guillaume Bideau bidding adieu to his former band of eight years to join Danish industrial metal band Mnemic, and their drummer Dirk Verbeuren shifting to live in the US, causing recording delays.
The first thing Scarve fans will notice is the production. As opposed to the clear production of Irradiant, The Undercurrent has more of a thick, fat, and bass-heavy production. This organic production can easily turn down most Scarve fans like it did me.
Next, the vocals. After losing Guillaume, Scarve went and had ex-Darkane frontman Lawrence Mackory do session clean vocals. While Mackory's voice sounds a bit like Guillaume, it is the vocal harmonisation where it all goes astray.
Whereas death growler Pierrick Valence and Guillaume on Irradiant sounded like they were meant to sing together, Mackory and Valence sound a bit disorganised.
It feels like they just came down to the studio, recorded their parts separately and left without hearing the other's parts. That is a bit of a problem with having two vocalists, and Scarve suffered a lot here because of this problem. But still, I must say this, Valence has the best death growl in all France. Joe Duplantier of Gojira sounds like a kitten compared to Valence's tiger-like death growl.
I must admit that I was also disappointed with the track listing. Track four "The Plundered" should have been the last song, it would really fit the flow of the album then. And they should have left out "Rebirth." Simply put, that track is the worst song that Scarve has ever made. For some reason I keep thinking of Nickelback(!) whenever I hear that song. They should have put an instrumental out here, or they could have had Pierrick going solo on this track because Lawrence sounds like shit on that track.
Musically, this album is very different from Irradiant. Irradiant was much more straightforward and catchy, you would like it on hearing the first time. The Undercurrent is much more dark, complex and abstract. The drums, as one would expect of Dirk, are top-notch. Guitarists Patrick Martin and Sylvain Coudret deliver on every level, although I am a bit disappointed with the lesser number of solos in this album, but they are still very good while they last. The bass work is very good as well, it almost feels like a punch to the face at times if you're not careful, such moments can be found on tracks 2 (Imperceptible Armageddon) 3 (Senseless) and 7 (A Few Scraps of Memories). I just love it when the bass deviates from the guitars, and Loïc Colin does that through out the album.
By the way, check out "A Few Scraps of Memories." It starts out with a creepy industrial beginning with a baby making baby noises and a woman crying, it sounds frickin' creepy. Pierrick is most prominent in this song. This song has more narrated parts to it and I just love this song. Sylvain Coudret delivers a Fredrik Thordendal-esque solo in this song! I think that this is the best song on the album.
In short, this is the worst album Scarve has ever made. But then why do I still give this an 80? Well, because most people might not understand this album on the first listen, and by seeing the score, hopefully they will go back and try to understand it again, because this album is like a beautifully sculpted statue in a public park which is too covered in pigeon poop for anyone to recognize it's beauty.