Aside from their Golden State roots, Scolex and Mortuous each offer a slow, stomping style of death metal which places heavy emphasis on repugnant soundscapes. They’ve just released a tiny golden nugget for us freaky fans; let’s dive in, shall we?
You can add Scolex to your ever-growing tally of Californian metal groups, a colony of crazed adventurers repaving a road travelled heavily by our ancestors. The bands in question, Ripped to Shreds, Draghkar, and Necrot to name a few, are all part of this underground old-school death metal revival. We’re talking chunky riffs, questionable production, and lots of Bolt Thrower influence; the deep dark crypts of underground death metal fester and foster. These sick kids are churning out quality material, and Scolex and Mortuous don’t stray from this citation. Well, at least most people don’t seem to think so.
If you’re an avid follower of my toxic tales, you’ll know that I wasn’t too fond of Mortuous’ debut earlier this year. Through Wilderness was an album that received a fair bit of hype within the community, and went as far to be considered to be an album-of-the-year contender for some. The record did however seem to be fairly polarizing, as an observance of relative user comments on Reddit revealed people tended to either thoroughly enjoy the album, or think it was a slow boring waste of forty-odd minutes. You can read my review to figure out which side of the fence I was on, but let’s just say I haven’t listened to that release since.
Anyways, the boys in Mortuous have crawled back up from the pits of the sweltering desert heat with swords in hand, providing a new opulent offering with the hopes of winning me over. How’s that for narcissism? Our friends have also brought their buddies from across the creek to back them up. Let’s see how this street fight goes.
Opening up with a strong right-hook from Scolex, our split starts off with blazing fury. The band hasn’t release anything in roughly five years, so I’m surprised they can still play their guitars this fast. Just kidding, the band members have a fair bit of other side projects keeping them busy, and Scolex seems to be the side project most to the side. What? Get back to the review?
Scolex’s contribution is what I would call more of a mid-paced track albeit with an emphasis on alternating fast guitar riffing. The main guitar building blocks which make up the track are hard to put your finger on, but not in a bad sense. They’re fairly fast to the ear but on paper they’ve got a slower pace; it really messes with your head but that’s what we’re all here for right?
“Black Pyramid Ritual” otherwise opts in to stay safe to deliver a strong death metal tune, albeit a bit on the standard side of things. I guess if you’re releasing one song which targets both yours and Mortuous’ fanbase you’re not going to front with your weirdest material, but I would have liked to see a bit more unconventional music on the group’s side of the release. The song is otherwise a ripper, though. Listen below.
The schoolyard boys have sent their biggest and baddest challenger first and I’ve been launched back on the hard hopscotch asphalt, this kid got extra tater-tots for lunch; not fair! I have however managed to get back on my feet and this fight isn’t over yet.
Stepping forward into the hastily-drawn chalk ring is Mortuous, a doomier death metal outfit armed with less blast beats and more snooze. Despite my thesis-like citations on my so-so review of their latest release (if I’m going to be negative I at least want to be thorough so I can explain myself properly), I’ve always felt like I hadn’t really put my finger on why I didn’t enjoy Mortuous’ output. While it may have been an orgy of a few factors, I knew it was something more than the group’s lack of forward energy and consistent one-dimensional vocals (at least without Chris Reifert’s contributions). However, I have now figured out my seemingly-inherent distaste.
The abrupt transition between Scolex and Mortuous’ tracks revealed that it’s the band’s production that I have a disagreement with. I had this issue with the recent Abysmal Lord/Crurifragium split, as both songs were great but one was lacking in production, as the transition between tracks abruptly revealed. The issue occurred with the release in question, as Scolex’ production is dripping with crunchiness and life, while Mortuous’ lies dead in the back alley; not even the flies want to touch this one.
The song itself is fairly standard for the group in comparison to the material on Through Wilderness. The lead singer’s vocals are enjoyable in their own right, but I find that his one-tone technique gets a little tedious after a while; throw in some screams or an “UGH!” every once and a while, man! The instrumentation works, and there is this interesting part in the track where the song kind of breaks down and the listener gets subjected to a lone guitar playing in the right channel, to which the drums and bass eventually respond, helping to bring the song back to full fruition within a matter of thirty seconds. However, after this intricate section comes full circle, we’re back to where we started.
I won’t drag on, but Mortuous’ sleepy challenge in the ring gave me the opportunity to come back in full force, winning the fight by close margin. I don’t know why I started this fight analogy and neither do you, but it got us through the article, didn’t it?
Scolex definitely won this split, if that’s a battle people discuss at all. From now on I’m going to treat two-track splits as battles between the two offending bands as I think that’s a neat idea; get on me, Metal Injection. Unfortunately Scolex is a fairly inactive band, as I mentioned before with their past and only work being an EP release in 2013. I suggest checking it out. I do however think this Scolex/Mortuous split works on a theoretical level, as both bands are from the same state and play a similar style of knuckle-dragging death metal. If you enjoyed Mortuous’ full-length from earlier this year, you’ll like their contribution to this release as well, its just not for me.