I must have opened a dozen reviews on MI with a note about not judging books by the cover.
Scáth Na Déithe’s demo was an absolute case in point.
Its artwork was somewhat quaint; not enough to put you off by any means, but nowhere near the class of the music that revealed itself inside.
It was a release of grim, austere power, totally belying the demo nature of where it came from.
Digging deep into that one’s thick, churning black metal immediately made one think of the Eastern European underground. It was surprising perhaps that it didnt get more attention than it did.
There should be no similar mistake with ‘Pledge Nothing But Flesh’, as it basically takes everything that was good about their last and refines it.
Unleashing The East
Again, the nods to Drudkh and Hate Forest are clear, given this flatly produced, de-tuned and persistently spiteful delivery.
They’ve really gone for speed here too, and ferocious speed at that; after opener Si Goaithe, ‘Bloodless’ stirs in a dirge for a minute or two before taking a pause – a breath – then whipping into to an unholy blasting speed that’s utterly fucking coruscating.
‘This Unrecognised Disease’ has a nod to Altar Of Plagues’ ‘Mammal’ about it, perhaps because of those grating higher string notes and the constant crash of the ride cymbal flailing at the back. There’s a similar dankness.
They’re smart, and know that power comes from contrast. As such, after these to forceful attacks there’s a much more atmospheric number, ‘Failte Na Marbh’, which has the ambience of a mausoleum.
Then two epics, and demanding ones at that: the twelve minute ‘The Shackled Mind’, followed by ‘Search Unending’.
The first begins more slowly than the rest of the album, more riff led rather than the pulsations of continual speed. A quieter mid section allows the introduction of some subtle guitar harmonies on top that alas don’t stay – it’s back into furious and seemingly unstoppable speed again for the better part of it.
The second is a more rumblesome affair, with the drums trying different things and incorporating more toms, cymbals and beats generally. It’s incredibly mulchy, dense and unforgiving.
A Heavy Burden
And that’s where my only real criticism of this fine work comes in: is there enough distance between the light and the shade in all of it?
The windy, plaintive strums that see out ‘Search Unending’ speak to an evocative dark Celticism and painting of landscape similar to Corr Mhona – brilliant in other words – and perhaps more of that could have been worked through the music a little.
It would just give breath between the relentless punishment of the songs proper. Also, those two big tracks are a huge effort, and perhaps could have been shortened even a little. They almost suck the air out of you.
But these are small complaints.
It’s exciting to think that this one drops round about the same time as the upcoming Naddred, showing that attention to detail and an artisinal effort is being brought to black metal here at the moment – with bands doing it not for kicks, but out of true artistic calling.
The thrill of fast, vengeful black metal never goes away, and this band are to be commended for doing it not with the shrill voices of a thousand clones, but in a way that though at times difficult, has a determined voice of its own.
4 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 02/02/16