Scaphism‘s last record was entitled Festering Human Remains. Released in 2012 it contained so much sexual violence – including a track called Raped To Death – that had I been offered it to review I would have refused. This pathetic, childish sickness is thankfully forgotten on their new album Unutterable Horrors.
Leaving the guitars-through-a-tube sound of their debut behind them, …Horrors is more a Madhouse than an abattoir, and while there’s no shortage of death and mutilation, it takes place primarily against the narrator rather than another helpless woman. On Excoriated And Excarnated it’s even a lady doing the butchering, which makes a change.
The tales of ritualistic killing start with Gruesome Unmentionables And Unutterable Horrors, where the shock of how un-heavy the production is was more alarming than the music or lyrical content. A full play through this charnel pit of an album and it makes sense; there’s been a shift in the bands’ approach, and they’re better for it.
Tracks like Mitte Eos Ad Infernos with its tales of sadistic warfare and Vaults Of Pestilence with it’s tales of rivers made of rotting corpse fluid are made thoroughly engrossing thanks to the clarity of the sound, and the hymn to prevented suicide by drill that is Trepanate The Undesired becomes a harrowing story, especially given the palpable irritation in the vocals. Scaphism eschew the pig-squealing ‘weee weee weee’ that’s so common in gore circles for a much thrashier vocal style, and it’s a welcome departure. After all, what’s the point in putting so much effort into writing these heady vignettes of brutality only to render them a guttural smear on the album?
A big shift, and an invigorating lesson in the dangers of curiosity is my personal favourite The Feaster From The Stars, which recounts a bloke poking about somewhere he definitely shouldn’t only to find an impossible evil contained within. While there’s hardly an abundance of subtlety on the go here – that’s hardly the intention – stories that are normally needlessly specific take on a significantly more threatening air when the listener has to join the dots a bit more. I’d be lying if I didn’t find the storytelling of each of these horrific scenarios living up to the album’s title; such a bold statement of Lovecraftian intent is made more rewarding not only by the words, but by the way they’re put across.
There’s a pleasing snarl to the whole thing – I get the impression that the band got a real kick out of these stop-start arrangements, and while …Horrors isn’t as manglingly grand as Cannibal Corpse‘s recent work or as deliberately confusing as Cryptopsy‘s godless racket it’s a lot more fun to listen to. A total lack of solos – the absence of which I didn’t even notice – means that there’s nothing in the way of hearing how grasping and desperate everything sounds. Every instrument is clawing itself forward with a foaming mouth, and the drums ride the ragged, bloody edge of disintegration the whole way through, sodden with a truly rabid character.
Putting on my honesty hat, there’s a solid 40 points in this rating for the vocals alone. Having a single tone for the instruments running through the entire record means the songs have to be seriously well-constructed to keep the listeners attention, and like a great pulp horror magazine I hung onto each tune for the ending. A well-written, carefully executed album thankfully devoid of the genre’s idiotic pitfalls, Unutterable Horrors is a righteously rotting blast. Proper job.