Scalpel – Sorrow and Skin

by Brett Stevens
August 21, 2013 –

scalpel-sorrow_and_skinOne 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.

    Track List

  1. Ripe
  2. Gutmulch
  3. The Woodsman
  4. The black juices
  5. Skullscraper
  6. Mincemaster
  7. Sentinels of Severed Flesh
  8. Sorrow and Skin
  9. The Exterminator/Human Slaw
  10. Unspeakable

For more information about Scalpel, visit the band store or band website.

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15 comments

  • Asphyx

    Sounds interesting. Thanks for the heads up.

    Can you review new albums by: Deeds of Flesh, Incantation, Immolation, Gorguts, Voivod & Summoning?

  • Lord Mosher

    Hello everyone! I’d like to share this prog-hard rock band from 1975 with you guys. The name of the band is Armageddon and they only released one album. The music is interesting as a footnote to the early ancestors of Heavy Metal. These
    guys were making proggy hard rock that anticipated the NWOBHM to come 5 years later. Despite one lame ballad and often too long rock n rollisms, a few tunes on this album anticipate by 2-3 years, what Judas Priest would do on their first three records in twin lead guitar rhythm attack and blistering soloing!

    – links to download or listen on YouTube:

    Armageddon – Armageddon (1975)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfu4hX1H_-s

    http://www.mediafire.com/?7nskd7khz5767ur

  • fallot

    This band really does not bother developing a lot of ideas that it is happy enough to blast at you constantly. Sometimes they will surprise you by doing so, but it is the sensation of `oh I guess it isnt as bad as I thought` rather than anything revelatory. The title track is stronger than most on the album and is probably all you need to listen to.

    The barrage of obfuscatory noise is really, really annoying. I just dont get it. Even an explosively violent band like Sinister uses its elements deliberately, they arent just noise or percussion filler. Even Deeds of Flesh doesnt take it this far; though they can wear you down sometimes they vary this element to create dynamic songs. This crop of technical death metal bands seems to have lost sight of actual communication through music and only want to break boundaries in extremity. This reveals the music and its communicative power as being ultimately meaningless, or secondary to them.

  • sarcomere

    Out of simple curiosity, and to heap more questions onto this comment section: are these front page reviews segregated from the old DLA reviews because the albums are considered inferior? Are there any you, the staff, would consider worthy of a spot in the DLA pantheon? Or is it maybe the more straightforward writing style of these new ones which presses you to keep them separate? The OCD spirit inside me seeks reconciliation.

  • Tame Spencer

    Wow, very impressed. I’m a huge fan of old school grind and DM and I really like the way these guys spin it. Definitely going to check this one out.

  • eman

    Would anyone recommend some of the outstanding bands on Unique Leader? I’m interested in this style but would rather start at the beginning.

      1. EDS

        Path of the Weakening was their third album. Inbreeding the Anthropophagi was their second album and it really began the UL/west coast brutal death metal sound. However it is sort of dull where as PotW was a step up in terms of composition and production.

  • eman

    Would anyone recommend some outstanding Unique Leader bands that initiated this style? I’m interested but would like to start with the originators.

    1. Anthony

      The big one would of course be Deeds of Flesh, but Pyaemia, the first Decrepit Birth album, Disavowed, early Vile, and Disgorge (the U.S. band) would also be premier exponents of the style. I would probably check them out in that order, since that’s pretty much the hierarchy of songwriting quality.

  • SERIOUS QUESTIONER

    Dear Mr Stevens, why is Satyricon’s debut album not as great as the other historically important black metal bands?

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