Scent of Remains – Under A Blackened Sky (Pavement Entertainment)

Friday, 31st January 2014
Rating: 6.5/10

Like writing a good novel, pacing is paramount when recording an album that keeps the listener hooked from beginning to end. Even if an entire disc’s songs don’t stray far from under the umbrella of a particular subgenre, death metal, for example, they still vary enough in tempo, dynamics, and tonality to take the listener on an aural odyssey. Unfortunately for Scent of Remains’s second full-length, Under a Blackened Sky, though, the pacing is its ultimate downfall, as even though some diversity is exercised and some tracks do capture the listener’s attention, these standouts are too few and far between to create a completely immersive experience.

There is a certain copy-and-paste dynamic that permeates the record, as listeners will constantly reencounter similar half-time, single-string, beatdown passages that liberally pepper many of these tunes. Most regrettable, though, is the fact that these sections tend to follow some legitimately interesting and sometimes compelling intros that effectively build sonic tension, creating a sense of grandiosity early on that falls flat once the band transitions out of the intro riffs. “Parasite” epitomizes this tendency by opening with an almost Latin-flavored intro that’s reminiscent of Ill Niño and seeming to build into an epic before descending into the repetitious slam that has dominated no fewer than four previous songs.

To give credit where it’s due, there are some eminently powerful moments that breach the mold on occasion. The heartfelt acoustic piece, “Wakefield,” showcases frontman Michael Yates’s vocal dexterity; guitar solos are tastefully utilized throughout and add an interesting melodic element, tending to rely more on soulful pentatonic jamming than the harmonic minor more common to modern metal; and “Unholy” is an authentic midtempo, minor-key crusher that pays homage to Michael Myers, even referencing the ill-remembered sixth film of the Halloween franchise.

SoR’s Facebook page states that “the focus is pure, simple and to the point – no nonsense,” so if their intention is to create shotgun-blast slam-jams that get the pit moving, it’s hard to deny they’ve probably hit their mark. But without the context of a live environment, with few exceptions, this offering doesn’t have much staying power.

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