The revival in the fortunes of Death Metal over the last few years has been largely due to the scene taking the path of innovation. It’s no accident that the sub-genre within the sub-genre of ancient, occult death metal has taken on a life of its own, due largely to the novelty of a taking a genre that was becoming well past its sell by date and adding something genuinely novel. Scythe are a band with no time for such an approach, and with debut album “Beware the Scythe”, they expel a ritual of traditional death metal with no heed paid to current trends.
Rising from the ashes of Usurper, Scythe take up entirely where that band left off. This is an exercise in the traditional, with pummeling bass riffs, deep grooves and sledgehammer vocals all in abundance. Lyrically, everything is framed squarely in the sci-fi/fantasy camp and the schlock-horror certainly adds an element of charm to the record.
Openers “The Iron Witch” and “Mastermind” deliver great promise, with real drive and the suggestion of a full-speed death metal cult imminently unleashing their cacophony. Guitar work is tight, with some masterful solos breaking up the riffs and adding colour. Unfortunately, it is downhill from here, and the triumph is rather short-lived.
After the initial bombast, things start to go awry. Scythe decide to start messing with the blueprint and end up suffering as a result. It starts with the eponymous third track where some really badly delivered clean vocals mix with a rock and roll swing in what comes across as a failed experiment. The track sounds like both bad planning and bad execution and serves to completely disrupt the flow of the album until that point. From this low, things only get worse and the further into the record that Scythe get, the more of ill-fitting sections they manage to cram in. The bad goes to much worse with “Opus Dei Of The Dead”, a song which revolves around the main riff from Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” with literally one note changed. There’s a really silly vocal performance on the chorus, and the whole thing simply serves to move the entire album into farce territory.
It’s a real shame that what starts so promising ends up losing all momentum, but there’s probably a lesson to be found here. Death metal has moved on and we’re lucky enough to be in a period where some of the best music the genre has ever seen is being thrown out left, right and centre. It’s not enough to simply create by-numbers records and rely on past glories. This is an album sadly lacking in any real depth, but also any real hook. At a time when we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to great death metal, there is no real reason to seek this out.