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I don't know which way is up. - 93%

Empyreal, June 9th, 2010

The metal underground is rich with jewels to mine, and although it’s a shame when people don’t choose to do that, it’s a bigger shame when they actually can’t find some certain albums like Scum’s Purple Dreams and Magic Poems. Never heard of this band before, never even seen their name mentioned at all, album is completely out of print apparently, but lo and behold, it’s fucking great. Let’s not waste any more time; let’s just dig in right now.

This is death metal played the way it fucking should be. Epic, mystical, haunting and opaque are all words I could invoke to describe this album. Scum was a Finnish band, and it shows. There is a lot of the doomy, erudite crunch of bands like Demilich or Demigod to be found in the guitar riffs on this album, and also a lot of the dark and brooding melody. The songs here are very direct and blunt, with angular, melodic riffs and snappy, hooky songwriting that will pull you in quickly with its wide, expansive melodies and searing leads. The atmosphere is smoky and mysterious, pulling you into strange and dense worlds where nothing is as it seems – this is very evocative stuff, and when they get into a groove and start pounding out the slow, arcane riffs and swirling leads, it’s easy to get lost in the music entirely. Hypnotic and entrancing. Sometimes they pick up the speed, but the transitions are never abrupt and never feel haphazard.

There are no weak tracks and none that are even below standard for the band, and right from the opening eerie keys of “Dance of the White Demons,” the mood is set, a thick and encompassing envelope of bizarre and alien nature. “Circus of the Freaks” rocks out with a barbed-metal riff and a kicking tempo, and from there the album alternates between short and fast throat-rippers like “Narcotic Dreams” and “Conception” and more drawn out epics like “In the Crest of the Northern Wave,” the spacey “Flames of the Silver Sea” and the mournful closer “Valley of Dark Dreams.” But really, every song is of similar quality, and it’s hard to pick standouts. The lyrics are a real catch, as they are just fantastic. They’re full of eye-catching metaphors and fantastically over the top imagery, and they’re just a pleasure to read. I won’t quote any here as you should really go and read them in full, but trust me, they are great.

The strange thing about it is…this is not inaccessible music! Purple Dreams is an album that could easily serve as an introduction to Death Metal that I personally find a lot better than your usual Amon Amarth and In Flames recommendations. This is not subtle music – everything is played up and everything is theatrical as hell. Scum wrote tight, hooky songs and their production was as clear as a whistle. I think the only reasons they didn’t get huge was because of the slightly odd elements like the clean vocals in “Oriental Fantasy” or the keyboards that pop up every now and then, and maybe some people just didn’t know what to make of it. It’s just certain things like the deep intonations in “Valley of Dark Dreams” and, well, just the oddity of the song titles and lyrical musings in general that probably didn’t gel well with the general public. Hallmarks and calling cards of the underground that normal folks shy away from pretty quickly.

But who needs them anyway? Purple Dreams and Magic Poems is a great piece of death metal. Its atmosphere is wonderful; its riffs are heavy and catchy, with enough melody and general weirdness injected into the mix to make the whole thing sound original. Creative, moody and evocative, this one is a winner. Check it out if you’re a fan of bands like Demilich, Demigod or Cemetary. You will not regret it.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com