Italian black metal enthusiasts The Scars in Pneuma will release their debut undertaking in a few days on February 8th. Blending death, doom, and melodic metal over a blackened base, the trio’s sound introduces the listener to a newfound sonic concoction. Let’s see how their first work fares.
Alas brethren, today we divulge in the fruits of a time long gone. While electric guitars and spiked chokers didn’t exist back then, our modern selves can at least return to an age of antiquity, peaceful hillside life, and widespread typhoid fever. Just stay away from the rats and you’ll be fine.
What have I been alluding to for such an excessive amount of time? Well yes, you are correct, medieval Europe has been chosen for today’s setting. Why, you might ask? The Scars in Pneuma have delivered a medieval-themed record for us to enjoy today. Well, its not really that medieval themed, I’m just getting those vibes.
Pneuma derives from the ancient Greek word for “breath,” and thus the name The Scars in Pneuma makes a little more sense. The trio behind the black metal project are of Italian origin, so I wouldn’t trust their English either. The Path of Seven Sorrows does however deal with themes of life’s regret, lost loved ones, and internal demons, hence the name.
Sonically, the album carries this introspective lyrical presence via forms of acoustic guitar, soft female vocals, and a general operatic nature. Upon a handful of listens, I’ve come to the conclusion that the main essence within The Path of Seven Sorrows, or band’s general sound really, lies behind their ability to blend a wide range of influences into one cohesive work, for the most part. The album can be interpreted as some masterful mix of black, death, and doom metal, with an intense presence of melody. These unique soundscapes are incorporated very nicely within the band’s eclectic yet controlled take on the black metal genre.
This isn’t a harsh album by all means, at least from a general point of view, so the opposite end of this equation results in the heavy parts being really heavy. Holding this living monstrosity together is a loud and downtuned guitar that rumbles behind certain sections of the release. There are actually a few inclusions of this presence whereby that rumbling instrument is the main focus at hand, which gives the listener a good break from the more orchestral sections.
My first complaint lies behind the incorporation of the heavy rumbling guitar. While it does give a great variation to the band’s sound, its utilization always errs on the side of simplicity. You see, the orchestral back-and forth black metal riffing, acoustic inclusions, and epic doom-infused vibe that the music has gets offset with this chugging guitar foundation which works in some cases, but gets tiring after a while because the downtuned guitar always plays very simple riffs. I was highly intrigued with this inclusion when it first arose on “Souls are Burning,” as the track incorporated a masterful back-and-forth between epic blackened metal sections and primitive guitar chugging. However, by the end of the record’s first half, the listener (or critic, in this case) begins to realize that all the guitar’s inclusions bathe within simplicity. It gets tiresome after a while, and you feel like you’re listening to the same section over and over again, just under a different segment of overlaying music.
Unfortunately, The Path of Seven Sorrows all feels a little too similar to me, especially when consuming the release from front to back. While I praised the album earlier for its unique incorporation of varying sounds, the separate numbers here don’t change things up enough for me. There are certainly the stereotypical qualities of a full-length here (some tracks have acoustic intros, some tracks have female vocals, there’s the presence of a monolithic number, titled “The Glorious Empire of Sand”), but the music in between these traditional segues is the offending issue here.
Side note: I really do like the album cover. It fits the music very well and reminds me a lot of Bathory’s Blood Fire Death, which is a plus in my book.
The band’s sound just doesn’t carry enough internal variation or changes in tempo. We have the back-and-forth guitar melodies traditional to the black metal subgenre, we have a capable vocal performance, and an ability to create delightfully orchestral sections with a handful of instruments. I adore these parts, but the “meat” of each track just sounds like a slight variation of the prior number. I realized this upon listening to “The Glorious Empire of Sand,” the aforementioned penultimate monolith. I was looking forward to this number as my virgin ears were making my way through the tracklist; I had my eye on that 8-minute runtime. I was looking forward to seeing what this orchestral group could do with a full-fledged song, but I was somewhat disappointed, as it didn’t incorporate anything I hadn’t heard prior. It has the epic doom-infused moments, and it has the inclusion of the heavy chugging guitar to break the song apart, but it just felt like all the same, unfortunately.
Its all a real shame because these are the reasons why pre-ordering albums is a dangerous game. I see it time and time again, the fateful album formula which ceases to leave even the most abrasive of releases. You’ve got a handful of top-notch singles, and then a few more inventive tracks, and a great culminating track that kind of wraps everything up with a certain characteristic that the previous numbers lacked. Usually, an artist’s work pulls through and most of the above song categories blend well together. However, the album in question is one that could easily pull you in with its singles, but disappoints upon full reveal. I hope The Scars in Pneuma can find a little more variation within their sound for their future releases.