Consistency has been the watchword for German thrashers Dew-Scented throughout their twenty year career. Though never counted amongst the top tier in the pantheon of Teutonic thrash metal, the band have slowly but surely carved out their own niche and fanbase in the sub-genre thanks to a prolific stream of brutal albums now totalling nine in the sixteen years since “Immortelle” burst onto the scene in 1996. With each release Dew-Scented have further refined their thrash/death attack into a pugilistic onslaught, reaching critical peak on 2003’s “Impact” and 2005’s “Issue VI” (while on the subject of consistency, note the band’s proclivity for album titles beginning with the letter “I”).
The seven years that have passed since the high water mark of “Issue VI” have been less kind to Dew-Scented, with the band beset by internal turmoil and an apparent dearth of creativity on “Incinerate” (2007) and “Invocation” (2010). The most recent spate of personnel drama saw the entire existing line-up replaced earlier this year, save band founder and lead vocalist Leif Jensen. Jensen drafted long-time live session musician Marvyn Vriesde into the fold as lead guitarist, along with Rory Hansen on rhythm guitar, Joost van der Graaf on bass and Koen Herfst on drums, all of Dutch death metal outfit I Chaos.
Dew-Scented have long sought to take thrash metal to extremes and new release “Icarus” sees the band push the genre to its logical conclusion with a speed, precision and ferocity that frequently transgresses into death metal territory. Equal parts Testament and Vader, the new Dew-Scented are tighter and more uncompromising than ever before, with Jensen clearly revelling in having a technically adept rhythm section used to playing at blistering tempos at his disposal. Jensen’s own performance is significantly improved over the last two records; the ill-advised voice-overs that plagued parts of “Incinerate” have mercifully been dropped and the vocals sound more urgent, guttural and aggressive than they have in a decade.
Tracks like ‘Sworn to Obey’ showcase the new line-up’s enhanced technical ability but don’t stray too far from the relentless Dew-Scented formula of old. In the past, the band have displayed an unfortunate tendency to focus on speed and outright brutality at the expense of all else, leading some of their albums to suffer from a tangible sense of sameness and repetition. While there’s still an element of that here, every three tracks or so something sufficiently against the grain comes along to ward off any feeling that monotony is setting in. ‘Thrown to the Lions’ experiments with a half-tempo breakdown section, while ‘Storm Within’ off-kilter intro and disciplined, mechanical riffing contrast well with the reckless abandon and furious drum work of ‘Destined to Collapse’. ‘Reawakening’ breaks out a vintage Slayer-style tritone riff and shows that the band are just as adept at building and resolving musical attention as they are at going hell for leather.
After the upheaval of recent years, Dew-Scented could have been forgiven another solid, if unremarkable, album on a par with “Incinerate” and “Invocation”. Instead, “Icarus” is a true return to form for the band and one that stands alongside “Impact” and “Issue VI” as their best effort yet. Leif Jensen’s outfit have been thoroughly revitalized by the most recent round of line-up changes and the recruitment of a ready-made rhythm section in the form of Hansen, van der Graaf and Herfst has paid dividends, allowing the new Dew-Scented to deliver a truly visceral record with minimal bedding-in time. Whether Jensen can keep the current line-up together long enough to release a tenth album is anyone’s guess but if so, “Icarus” promises more great things to come.