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A spaghetti junction of cliches - 80%

we hope you die, July 31st, 2020

Injecting some sloppy primitivism back into death metal, Scolopendra seem to draw their character from an effort of sheer will as opposed to any notable technical talent. Far more sophisticated musical minds than this have created albums vapid and hollow compared to ‘Those of the Catacombs’. Aesthetically they are a spaghetti junction of clichés, but as if determined to prove that enthusiasm can in fact be an effective substitute for lack of talent, these tracks perfectly invoke the haphazard, dirty, DIY world they draw inspiration from. For the most part this is old school worship with an overtly evil aesthetic, drawing obvious inspiration from horror films and the like, with vocals more ghoulish than they are aggressive; thrash riffs blended through tritones and no small amount of breakdowns verging on Autopsy style doom. Drums are a simple yet creative metronome, defined more by simple, repeated sequences than any flashy fills or overly complex rhythmic play. But they serve their purpose of propping up the ultra-primitive ‘evil’ thrash metal core to this album, providing it with a near relentless swagger.

That being said, this album was serviced by two drummers, one for the first half and another for the final four tracks, and there is a noticeable adrenaline boost after the changing of the guard, as the rhythms become more sure of themselves, the kick-drums gain more presence, and the guitars, apparently egged on by this more sturdy footing become meatier and more dynamic as a result. We’re still a long way off Mike Smith levels rhythmic acrobatics, but the album is noticeably jacked by the second half.

Eerie keyboards crop up frequently, furthering the cheesy (but not overtly so) ‘house of horrors’ vibe to the whole affair. The guitar tone is suitably filthy, and lends itself to these highly basic but well crafted riffs, which are so minimal and persistent it almost feels like a Profanatica album. And indeed, this album could be said to have more in common with early black metal along the lines of Root, Master’s Hammer, and Beherit than typical death metal. The reason for this is because although by nature it is a highly primitive death metal album, the overbearing atmosphere and single-mindedness of ‘Those of the Catacombs’ embodies the streamlined philosophy of black metal more than it does the frantic and schizophrenic nature of death metal riffcraft.

For this reason, ‘Those of the Catacombs’ has more going for it than more polished but characterless death metal releases for the passion that has gone into their craft. As if aware of their limitations as musicians, Scolopendra have adopted the black metal philosophy of honing a specific mood and theme over the course of an album, and used what means they have at their disposal to communicate this. By that metric this album is a resounding success, and despite the hammy aesthetic and themes any seasoned death metal fan would roll their eyes at, there are little unique flourishes and pockets of unexpected joy for any fan of the dirgey, dirtier end of the scale.

Originally published at Hate Meditations