SCUM – Gospels for the Sick – 3.5/5
It seems that everything is being mixed with hardcore punk of late, resulting in a never-ending stream of ‘-core’ genres, largely resulting in an atrocity to the genre, so naturally when I discovered an artist that fuses black metal with hardcore punk (creating blackcore?), I think its safe to say I was apprehensive, but in truth there is one strong link between both genres: the message. Both are designed to be against the mainstream, promoting individuality and strength in ‘do-it-yourself’ demeanour, it is this that they tap into to provide the successful merging of styles. This isn’t a group of nobodies either, with Casey Chaos (Amen) handling the vocals, Samoth (Zyklon, Gorgoroth, Emperor) and Cosmocrator (Windir) dealing with the guitar duties, backed amicably by Faust (Emperor, Zyklon) on drums, this is an all-star line-up that quite simply means if there is hope for the genre, this is as good a group as any to prove it.
Faust is one of those drummers that always seems capable of outperforming other drummers in his field, not in his speed but for his willingness to add any number of fills of creativity, continually mixing up the style – just a little – to stave off sounding monotonous, and once again he proves this to be the case with an array of upbeat thrashing beats lavishly on display. The bassist is barely discernable through the rest of the instrumentation for the most part, but with the twin guitar work this absence doesn’t feel missed.
The guitars feel overtly punk in tone, more so than I would have expected given their background, largely consisting of hard hitting chord sequences that remain effective if perhaps not the most memorable, the odd solo thrown in for good measure; they vary nicely and perform well, blending with each other in a seamless fashion, if an unexpected one. Completing the line up is Casey Chaos, modern punk rocker with more attitude than vocal talent, he is certainly not the most capable from a technical stand-point but the anger and passion he gets out of each lyric is uncanny, but here feels underused. Having known him for his work with ‘Amen,’ many of the catchy vocal rhythms and hard hitting lyrics have vanished for what sounds like his B-material. Attempting a more blackened shriek that doesn’t entirely work, his efforts are still impressive if not what they could have been.
The production is nice and gritty, not too raw but a far cry from many over polished releases that become stripped of their intensity in favour of a ‘perfect’ tone. My main gripe here is that this doesn’t feel like Black metal at all. It is intended to be a merging of two styles to produce something unique but the result sounds like a bunch of Norwegians decided to make a punk album, which whilst not bad in the end, is something of a disappointment. Its fun to listen to for a while, and perhaps novel to think how the blackest of the black are performing punk, but gets forgotten all too readily as just another band that are good but simply not special.
Highlights: Protest Life, Throw up on you, The Perfect Mistake