(Here’s DGR’s review of the new EP by the death metal collective known as Scour.)
Last year, Scour released its debut EP Grey, something that I reviewed — though I don’t recall it having a name at the time so much as suddenly appearing – and I had a lot of joking fun with the review, even if folks didn’t quite understand that at the time.
The novelty of Scour was the initial draw for the project, and while I found the release good, I did not expect a second release so soon. Now that Scour are established and have unleashed themselves live upon some folks, it felt like diving in again was the reading of the next chapter of an ongoing story, and so, we find ourselves wondering how this extreme metal collective’s second EP has turned out.
If you are somehow completely unaware of the Scour project, who is involved in it, and the history behind it, you’d be forgiven if for the first thirty seconds of the band’s new EP Red you thought the group were a black metal band.
Red, the six-song, fifteen-minute EP (which the band are currently selling for $6.66 on Bandcamp), comes in one year after its sibling EP Grey and shows that Scour — the project fronted by ever-busy controversy-lightning-rod vocalist Phil Anselmo alongside a veritable lethal all-star group of death metal musicians including Cattle Decapitation’s Derek Engemann, Conglux/Continuum’s Chase Fraser, and both John and Adam Jarvis (newly added) of Pig Destroyer — know exactly what they are doing and are executing upon their mission fully.
If you’re a long-time metal listener whose tastes are located on the extreme fringe, then you’re going to be very familiar with what Scour get up to on Red. Scour is meant to be the extreme metal project, and Red spends its fifteen minutes with listeners steadily holding a flamethrower to their faces, high-mixed guitar tearing away and behind it a solid belting of blasts, which continues the trend started on Grey of destruction of a drum kit via high-speed battering. While a large part of Scour’s initial appeal is likely going to be the “Listen to Phil Anselmo death growl and run his throat raw”, with Red, Scour are showing their teeth more and ratcheting up the death metal lethality a few notches.
Red has a weird pacing to it. Not tempo-wise — the band themselves make sure that every song is frighteningly fast and noisy as hell, especially as both Chase and Derek’s guitar work is mixed up a few notches — but in its track flow. The title song, beyond its blackened death metal opening, feels like the direct continuation of last year’s EP and gives the impression that this round might be more of the same — but the group of three tracks that make up the middle of Red (“Piles”, “Bleak”, and “Barricades”, because every song is one word), actually have some interesting stuff going on within them.
As odd as it is to say, “Piles” may actually work out to be somewhat of an earworm, if not just for the repeated phrasing of its “inside the piles!” section. The three-fer that begins with that track makes up the red metal of an EP that could already be considered near-literal red meat in both name and genre. “Bleak” is written as such, opening like the apocalypse and meant to be like the shades of a grey apocalypse. If any main point of comparison could be identified between the two EPs that Scour has out so far, it’s that Red fuels itself heavily on the armageddon warfare aspect of the band’s sound. “Barricades” may garner most of its interest because of the song’s back half, where the vocal work is the song title screamed over and over again, to the point of sounding like someone who is running sandpaper down his throat.
“Sentenced” for the most part is the oddball simply because it’s an orchestral buildup song, which features some additional work on it by tech-death stalwart Malcolm Pugh of Inferi, A Loathing Requiem, and Virulent Depravity. It spills into “Shank”, which is Red’s closer and is actually a lot like the EPs opener. “Shank” benefits from having “Sentenced” in front of it, and the two songs combined have Scour turning into a symphonic black metal band for a brief bit.
It’s crazy to think that already two years in, we now have what is an album’s worth of material out of the Scour project. Granted, the leadup to it felt like a long period of time, with people dropping hints that there was an extreme metal project in the works, but clearly the crew behind this project want to keep it rolling so that the momentum doesn’t let up.
As a newer project, there are plenty of potential pitfalls they could make along the way, but Scour have clearly stacked their deck so as to avoid them. Assembling something of an all-star collection of extreme metal guys can at least keep you from just going with extremely unispired groove, and one of the things you do have to give to Scour is that, although they’ve got a very famous person at the front on vocals, it’s not set up so that the vocal work can be mailed in, in favor of something recognizable and easy. The band are running at a thousand miles an hour and giving no quarter, and so too does the vocal work.
On Red, Scour find one mood and sound and for the most part stick to it, unleashing a fifteen-minute slab of instantly recognizable, no-compromises death metal. How the project justifies itself in the future, and more importantly, what color they choose for their next EP — if they continue this pattern — will be interesting to watch.