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Disappointing - 40%

webbtje, March 17th, 2009

Scarve have always had something of a spark about them. I can't quite describe it, but something made them the most energetic band on the French scene; it could have been the interplay between the two vocalists, it could have been the fantastic riffery, it could have been Dirk Verbeuren's frantic (and untriggered!) drumming. But although these elements are present in The Undercurrent, the album falls flat. The energy somehow isn't there; the technical performances are all flawless, but some things just don't sounds right. That clarity of production which made albums like Irradiant so distinct, eschewing Andy Sneap – style saturation for relatively clean guitars, audible bass and snappy drums, has gone; it's replaced with a wall of sound production, more like Devin Townsend than lo-fi. It doesn't suit them; the appeal of Scarve was to sound relatively stripped down, and the energy really shone through. However, it would be stupid to dismiss the album just because of the production: there are other problems.

The main problem is that the amount of filler has gone up. A lot. I can count the number of memorable songs on one hand: The Plundered is great, as is Endangered, and... er... that's it. In general, the riffs sound tired now, when they're actually audible... and the vocals. Oh dear. Well, in the past, Pierrick Valence sounded like he was possessed with a kind of ferocity which I don't hear often in metal these days, while Guillaume Bideau managed to pack his cleans full of grit and aggression. Pierrick is by and large OK, but Guillaume Bideau's studio replacement, Lawrence Mackroy of Darkane, simply doesn't cut it. He sounds positively tame compared to Guillaume. On top of this, the vocal arrangements have become predictable. There is no chemistry between these two. It's very clear that Lawrence is a hired gun, and no more; he does the job adequately, but the passion has gone.

Overall, this is the weakest link in Scarve's discography. It's OK, and no more; the previous albums were bordering on genius, and as such The Undercurrent just doesn't compare. With both vocalists now having left, and guitarist Sylvain Coudret being snagged by Soilwork (Dirk's day job), the future looks somewhat bleak for Scarve. I hope it's not their last release, I really do; it would be a shame to leave on such a down note.