Monday, October 30, 2023

Scolopendra - Those of the Catacombs (2020)

Like most horror and OSDM fans would be, I was attracted to the cover art on Those of the Catatombs, which reminded me heavily of all that great old Italo creep cinema of past decades, like a potential period piece incarnation of the Fulci Zombi franchise. You can just envision all these putrid, horrific corpses popping at you from cellars, crypts and tombs, and to their credit, Scolopendra does their bloody best to match the morbid imagery with their crud-clad, almost minimalistic approach to extremity. In fact, their crude songwriting aesthetics mirror those of another Italian export, the great Barbarian, only where that band metes out a mix of primitive thrash, speed and epic heavy metal, this is more of a carnal hybrid of pure 80s death and thrash without any frills...

Chugging, hammering riffs that you've probably heard many times before in various forms, with a few lapses towards doomier, slower material. Lots of feedback in there, fresh and unpolished like a blend of Hellhammer and Venom, but never too noisy or clamorous that it disturbs the clarity of the recording. The raw rhythm guitar tone is balanced out by the simple bass lines and beats, and then both of the vocalists just slather on this raunchy, gruesome barks and roars which certainly remind one of Chris from Autopsy or the late Killjoy of Necrophagia. Some of the sustained vocals have a decay on them like a death metal toad roaring its dominion across a stagnant pond, and it's all total nasty and straight to the face. There's also a very 'live' vibe to this album, again it's not too disgustingly distant or crude, but as if you were getting this really intense, balanced, loud performance right in front of you.

They use a few little details like organs and such ("First-Class Coffin"), or the horror synthns of the interlude "The Smell of Cadavers" to spice things up so they don't become too monotonous, and a few individual guitar licks stray from expectations, but by and large this is very old sounding worship of the bands that stood at the forefront of extreme metal in numerous of its categories. There's nothing too nuanced or progressive about anything here, it's just a big, rolling, pounding bevy of death metal riffs that sound like the style was just then congealing on top of the corpse of thrash, and if you're into those first two Autopsy albums, Usurper, Impetigo, maybe some other bands like Cardiac Arrest, this is perhaps a band you're going to be into, and a lot more rudimentary than the members' other group Abhor. For myself, I really admired the artwork, the themes, the huge sound of the project and the attitude, but I did find a lot of the riffs direly predictable and it didn't exactly light my fire, there weren't many tunes I wanted to keep returning to beyond maybe the synth instrumental.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]

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