» Blog Archive Review: Scaphism's Unutterable Horrors -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

scaphism Between thrash and death metal, I always get a sinking feeling in my gut when a new album comes my way. It’s no secret, but those two genres are filled to the brim with artists who aren’t doing anything new with the genre and create music that aspires to echo their influences. I’m guilty of this, too, but it’s not a crime if it’s intended to be made for the love of music. Scaphism is that band, in which the Boston death metal act set forth to write good death metal because they obviously love the genre. Yet among all the other death metal-worshiping bands out there, Scaphism get something right about death metal that most bands don’t, and that is what sets them apart from the rest of the pack.

It has been about six years since we’ve last heard from the band, with 2012 seeing the release of their debut album Festering Human Remains. What was once a solo project for guitarist Evan Woolley is now a band with now two albums under their belt, and this year’s Unutterable Horrors is a surprise to start off the year that I certainly did not see coming. I’m quite vocal about enjoying death metal acts in the vein of Ulcerate or Entombed, but Scaphism have opted to do neither and take cues from acts from the 80’s American scene, with an Autopsy and Deicide influence pulling through among their own stylistic deviations. So if that’s your cup of tea, you know what you’re in for, lest you need more convincing.

Unutterable Horrors is riff heavy, gruesome, and cold at times. It’s relentless, doesn’t tease you, and clocks in at just under 30 minutes in an attempt to avoid dragging on. As the second song, “Malapropos Cardiectomy,” begins, it’s quickly evident that this isn’t going to be a collection of blast beats and tremolo picking. Instead, the band has crafted eight songs that all stand on their own, with each of them playing on different techniques, hooks, and ideas to make them a separate entity from the rest. Vocalist Tony Jordan drives this home by channeling his inner John Tardy rather than, say, his inner John Gallagher. His lyrics are comprehensible and precise, while still being vicious enough to sharpen the band’s impact.

scaphism 2The instrumentalists give as much to the sound as Jordan, as Woolley delivers precise and appropriately intense guitar parts, coupled with delicious grooves courtesy of drummer Alex Fewell. In particular, “Trepanate the Undesired” sees the band on the most equal footing with one another, giving a little bit of everything that their sound consists of across three and a half minutes or so. (This one in particular gives me some serious Deicide vibes) Even bassist Erik Jordan, who joins the band on this album for his first release, gets his chances to shine with his presence felt virtually everywhere, especially when you have a good set of headphones on.

For the most part, the production the album is really rock-solid as well. There’s consistency to be had here, but if there’s any faults do become apparent in the individual instrument levels on further inspection. It wasn’t until my second listen that even though the everything sounds solid, it’s easy to notice the jump in volume on the toms on the drums during certain fills. This is really obvious on “The Feaster From the Stars,” yet thankfully doesn’t undermine the body of work at all. Other times, while the guitar tone certainly has enough bite to it, one could definitely hear room in the mix for more layers to be added to beef up the tone or better yet, add more depth to the bass to fill the void while eclipsing the lower end. Scaphism have a big sound, and going forward it would  be awesome to see them possibly make it even bigger.

With so many death metal bands being shovelware out there, it’s nice to see a band like this actually release an album that makes an effort to make each song unique. Unutterable Horrors is a solid release, and one that I’m finding myself going to satisfy that taste for good death metal. Not many extreme metal albums can engage you as a listener and, in turn, can become a passive experience. Scaphism have something really good going here, and going forward it’ll be interesting to watch where their taste for the genre will take them.

Unutterable Horrors is available here, with “Vaults of Pestilence” streaming below.

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