Released: 2004, Witches Brew
Let’s look back almost two years already to 2004. That year was a rather eventful year for the German death metal band Scythe. 2004 saw the band’s 10 year anniversary culminate in a full-length release that was comprised of songs from their first two demos (LAST ECLIPSE and SILENT IS THE FUTURE) rerecorded and released as THE PROCESS OF ROTTING on Germany’s Witches Brew label.
Unfamiliarity with the band lead me to looking up a few reviews of previous albums online. One description that permeated through every review was that while the band were heavy and firmly rooted in the old school death metal style, their use of an almost melancholic and atmospheric melody lifted them at least a few notches above their peers. Another thing I always noticed was that Opeth comparisons seemed abundant, not that they necessarily sound like Opeth (at least I hope nobody was implying that) but that they evoke some of the same feelings and emotions as Opeth, yet retain the death metal sound throughout without having to resort to clean vocals and tons of acoustics… or songs in the over 10 minute range. So coming into listening to THE PROCESS OF ROTTING the band instantly had a lot to live up to and I have to say, a lot of those reviews hit the nail on the head. While I don’t really feel the Opeth reference I can kind of get what some of the reviewers were getting at (especially in the song “Path in the Snow”). This is somewhat trippy old school death metal that brings the heavy riffs but has an altogether different feel as even at their heaviest it doesn’t necessarily feel like the band are out to bludgeon the listener to death.
Upon the album’s real beginning in “Disinclination” I immediately got the rumbling old school Swedish death metal treatment. The song is very much an exercise in speed with hints of a more midpaced sound until the song’s breakdown around 2:12 when a simple, heavy, riff gets tossed into the mix and a doomy atmosphere permeates the song soon afterwards. “The Tomb” has my vote for one of the best groove filled death metal songs I’ve ever heard. Driven by a heavy mid-paced riff with solid backing drums the song never kicks into high gear, aside from a slight punk side that rears its head later on. Haunting acoustics start “Path in the Snow” but only last for about a cycle or two before that rumbling death metal from “Disinclination” comes back. The main difference here is that a lot of effort seems to be put into background melodies that are obviously there but sound as if they are coming from way in the back of the speakers. While the song is, in general, rather straightforward it’s the nice little melodic touches and lead guitars that make the song much more interesting than it could have been.
“Solitude” starts off rather trippy with loads of echo, reverb and no distortion… plus what sounds like bongos to go along with the spoken/sung intro. The main opening sound isn’t completely left behind when the song kicks in proper either as the melody seems to find itself interwoven into a riff here and there. Stop/start groove riffing opens “More Than Only Dead” but it doesn’t last long with the slightly melodic rumbling death metal coming back but it plays nicely with an intermittent distorted lead guitar melody. When the song goes full on groove and retains the aforementioned melody it really is an interesting thing to hear as it works well in both contexts.
Scythe may play heavy and they may play fast and they may use groove but don’t lump them in with the new school brand of brutal for the sake of brutal death metal. This is mid-90’s Euro death metal with a great melodic sensibility. I’m sure Scythe have enough tricks up their sleeve to keep even the most discerning metalhead interested for an entire album.