One effect of the recent uptick in nostalgia bands and reunions is that newer bands have seen the light. This illumination is that if a band simply continues where the past left off, it can both have a unique perspective and uphold the traditions that have made metal great. This escapes the dual ills of false novelty and being a tribute band.
Scalpel combines the West Coast style of blasting percussive death metal, commonly called the Unique Leader sound after the label that signed the innovators of this style, with the East Coast post-Suffocation form of grinding pneumatic explosive technical death. The result is high-intensity percussion mated with simple riffs that proliferate into layered textures that expand in complexity as the song develops.
Sorrow and Skin will immediately call to mind recent Deeds of Flesh and Northeasterners Dehumanized, who made similar percussion-intensive death metal with similar pacing: frenetic, but with lots of pauses and interludes, drawing together high intensity moments like scenes in an atmospheric horror film. Scalpel pair up riffs and let them develop, but keep it simple so that no element rises above the others.
The result is high-intensity music that also has enough internal musical meat to keep the brain occupied and searching for meaning in its patterns, which creates a vertiginous effect of discovery when the unpredictable occurs. Use of melody allows songs to embed moods within previous sensations crafted only by the pattern of riffs.
While Scalpel uses little of metal’s classic phrasal riffing, preferring the more speed metal percussive and choppy styles, these riffs branch out to include different textures and rhythms. The result is a sense of each song like a mini-golf course, where each riff has a mechanism and after you play through, a surprise that reveals its purpose in the whole.
In keeping with the West Coast school of percussive death metal, Scalpel uses the “dog barking into the wind” style of vocals that are both guttural but not exclusively bass-heavy, giving them greater range to match instruments. The result packages a good deal of musical activity within songs that, while made from simple parts, end up being tiny visions of inward journeys that take us to more interesting places than the sum of their pieces.
- The Woodsman
- The black juices
- Sentinels of Severed Flesh
- Sorrow and Skin
- The Exterminator/Human Slaw