Released: 2007, Listenable Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
French industrial death/thrashers, Scarve, have delivered yet another obliterating slice of Strapping Young Lad-meets-Fear Factory cyber-metal on their fourth album, THE UNDERCURRENT. While founding members Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork) and Patrick Martin remain the driving force of Scarve’s sound, since 2004’s IRRADIANT, vocalist Guillaume Bideau has left the fold and is currently fronting Mnemic, which saw former Darkane screamer, Lawrence Mackrory, fill the void on the new album (second vocalist Pierrick Valence has also left the band since the release of THE UNDERCURRENT to focus on his other project, Phazm). Verbeuren’s militaristic drums and Martin’s technical riffing remain as uncompromising as ever but THE UNDERCURRENT sees the band continue to evolve and refine their sound. The death metal and thrash influences are still there but with ever-greater technicality mingling with the industrial flourishes, Scarve remains one of those underground gems that France seems to have no shortage of.
The influence of Strapping Young Lad is immeasurable on Scarve’s music, most notably the drumming and guitar work (having Daniel Bergstrand, who helmed SYL’s CITY, behind the desk certainly helps, too) on “Imperceptible Armageddon” and “Senseless.” While not a clone band, the seeds are certainly there with hammering double bass, intricate, off-kilter guitar runs and a crushing, monolithic wall of sound. Scarve’s use of two vocalists adds depth to tracks like “Endangered,” “Fathomless Descent” and “Rebirth” with a guttural death metal growl accompanying the clean, higher-pitched screamed vocals in the choruses. Verbeuren absolutely assails his kit on “The Plundered” with impressive rolls and fills alongside the devastating floor work. Lead guitarist, Sylvain Coudret, not given a lot of work in terms of solos that stand out, really delivers on “Fathomless Descent” and The Plundered,” though, with a dizzying parade of string bending and whammy dives that, while audibly double-tracked, are no less impressive. The only real misstep is found on the overly-long “A Few Scraps of Memories,” which at nearly six minutes wears out its welcome before the midway point. A droning, spoken word vocal is grating, unnecessary and unfortunately returns for a curtain call near the end. Maybe the band decided to give listeners a break from the intensity, but if I want to hear some moody blathering, I do not seek out Scarve to find it.
It seems like Scarve should be on a bigger label than Listenable Records but it’s probably better to be a big fish in a small pond than the other way around. Like fellow countrymen (and label-mates) Lyzanxia, Scarve tap into that Strapping Young Lad/Meshuggah vibe with two vocalists and some frantic guitarwork that levels with its technicality. With four full-lengths now under the belts, THE UNDERCURRENT sees Scarve filling out its shoes and making them their own. There are no vast differences between IRRADIANT and THE UNDERCURRENT in terms of sound, so fans of that record will dig this one, too, but that is not to say Scarve is repeating itself. They are merely honing the machine and making it cleaner, faster and more efficient.
KILLER KUTS: “Endangered,” “Imperceptible Armageddon,” “Senseless,” “The Plundered,” “Rebirth”