Released: 2006, Witches Brew
Another bout of introspective, melancholic death metal… and yes, it’s still death metal. Germany’s Scythe comes out with their third proper full-length album after 2004’s “The Process of Rotting” which contained rerecording from the band’s demos (which I reviewed exactly a year ago). DECAY is yet another chapter in the Scythe’s growing history and it’s no doubt the band has not only hit on a signature sound but has created some great heavy metal in the process.
Scythe takes the old school death metal approach (big riffs, a lack of blast beats etc.) and melds it with a melodic and melancholic side. The tempos being a touch on the slower side, usually used to help accent some of those melodies. The vocals stay rough for the most part, though it’s interesting to hear when some clean vocals show themselves (near the end of “Years of Patience and Regret”). The production does a great job of accenting both the heavier and lighter sides, the guitar crunch can, at times, crush anything in sight, while there’s enough air in the sound for the melodies to weave in and out without sounding restricted.
After a brief, atmospheric intro the album begins rightfully with “Years of Patience and Regret”. The way the guitar lightly works in the intro, one might think of Opeth (a band I often see Scythe compared to, though Scythe leans much more to the death metal side). When “Years of Patience and Regret” begins there’s no doubt Scythe are a different beast. While you have a slow accenting riff there is a lightly picked guitar melody working just around it. The light picking continues when the riff changes and takes on a rather sinister sounding melody. When all else stops, the light clean guitar takes over with drums before bouncing double bass comes together with a more melodic riff. The song continues on in a rather slow pace, working the melodies while keeping a significant heavy crunch to fit the rough vocals, until the song starts to use some rather convincing, multi-tracked clean vocals. It’s much more in the style of a chant than of tried and true rock and roll singing, but it’s an interesting touch.
“Pretending Not to See” opens up working some impressive melodic work. Both melodies through the riffs as well as some short little lead sections and softer picking that works through much of the opening sections. It’s always impressive to hear band’s attempt melodic sections that work a pretty heavy angle in their riffing. Scythe does it extremely well, carrying a bit of that sorrowful doom ethic into their death metal. The first track that could really be considered a “headbanger” comes around by the fourth track. Although “Bitterness” has some solid melodic work going on here and there, it’s based around a lot of mid-paced, heavy riffing. Some of it even leaning towards traditional heavy metal, especially just past the one minute mark. The song does develop over its six and a half minutes, eventually seeing the band revert to it’s slightly more intricate and interesting melodic work.
A strong Middle Eastern influence is found in the opening of “A Glimpse of the Eastern Sunrise” but it’s in the more traditional riffs that I find the most interest. This song sits as probably the heaviest, especially with the choppy mid-paced riffing that comes around for the vocals initial intro. The riff is changed shortly, into an interesting rising melodic idea. Not exactly a new idea, but one that works well. “A Glimpse of the Eastern Sunrise” even includes a great mid-paced stomp that comes around a couple times but it hits hard when it does. It’s the way the band plays with the dynamics that makes not only this song, but the rest work. When a band has a firm grasp on how to use dynamics to their advantage, it makes the heavy sections sound that much heavier, and it also makes the more calm or melodic sections carry that much more weight. The album continues with “Das Leben, Das Ich Selbst Gewählt” which is another banger, opening up heavier than most of the album and staying that way for probably the longest duration of all the songs on the album. “The Cogwheel” is the odd man out on the album, being a soft, dream-like, ballad with lots of clean vocals. While “The Cogwheel” isn’t bad, and it’s nice to see the band stretch their legs a bit, the vocals just aren’t convincing enough to make the song really work. The last two tracks on the album jump from the heavy, droning “While Everyone Sleeps” to the softer “October”, which sounds like a soft, modern Katatonia track (the vocals are stronger here, but still not enough to really push the song over the top).
Scythe has created an interesting listen with DECAY and while I’d argue there are a few stumbling blocks here, the quality of much of the material is strong enough to warrant DECAY repeated listens.