Scum (FIN)
Garden of Shadows


4.5
superb

Review

by turnip90210 USER (65 Reviews)
December 4th, 2016 | 33 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Accidentally wiped out in their prime

By the mid-90’s, death metal was splintering pretty hard into sub-genres. It was a musical Wild West out there, a true potpourri of influences hybridising with the genre in a myriad of ways. The one that turned out to stand the test of time was a melodic blend with NWOBHM, which has gone on to influence countless bands all over the widely understood metal realm. However, that wasn’t the only manner in which death metal bands flirted with melody two decades ago. A number of acts, such as Amorphis and Tiamat, took cues from progressive and psychedelic works. This often resulted in more plodding, down-tempo works with the riffs losing a fair share of metallic edge. The style largely died out, probably in no small part because those albums often turned out to be but transitional works on the way to a more throughout embrace of the progressive inspiration.

Scum was one of the representatives of that style, their moniker a misnomer from their grimy beginnings akin to their compatriots Xysma. Their sophomore effort Purple Dreams & Magic Poems was released the same year as Slaughter of the Soul, offering an accomplished glimpse of how melodic death metal might have turned out in a parallel universe. The register shift in the impassioned guitar melody near the outro of anchor track “Flames of the Silver Sea” remains arguably the most spine-tingling moment in the genre’s history. They had a real good thing going, but a follow-up never materialised. As it turns out, the whole album was tracked and ready to go, but death metal’s waning popularity led to the band getting unceremoniously ditched by their label. Two decades later, the recordings resurfaced on a completely unrelated label.

Garden of Shadows finds Scum in continued development, growing as musicians and refining their style. Crucially, they retain all the strengths that made Purple Dreams & Magic Poems the smashing record it is. The guitar leads have greatly honed their chops (the Crypt of Kerberos-style neoclassical afterthought to “Golden Seeds”), but never forego the song’s greater good for technical showboating. Case in point – the ten-minute juggernaut “Trilogian Tales” has a quick burst of flamboyant fretboard torching over a fast riff, but the moments that really stick with the listener are the recurring melodic theme and variations thereon, along with a particularly inspired phrase over a mellow section about midway through. The riffing continues its flirtations with all sorts of 70s guitar music, along with some cues from recent developments by their contemporaries. You can smell some death n’ roll swagger in the groove of “Rise Like Morning Star”, and some of the interplay between the two guitarists reflects an acute awareness of the Gothenburg scene just across the border. Both of those are but influences and the sections manage to retain a distinctly Scum feel. The vocals still have about as pleasant a timbre as growls can possibly get, and the singer continues his forays into whispers and spoken word to vary up the dynamics. When combined with the fact that the voice is buried in the mix for some reason, Garden of Shadows may well be one of the best entry points to music with harsh vocals this side of Emotionless (courtesy of As Autumn Calls).

There’s but one thing keeping Garden of Shadows from ascending into the top ranks of the undisputed underground classics. That’s the lack of a “Flames of the Silver Sea” tier track on the record. There are ample moments of greatness on the album – “I Am Messiah” with is masterful tension flow, the whiplash-inducing outro to “Mountain of the Hawks”, P.T. Askola’s finest hour in the heartbroken wail of “Black Swan”, the feel-good vibes of the Maiden’esque outro. The musical growth is extremely apparent, and the fact that a band that had a clunky “House of the Rising Sun” cover on their debut but two years prior was now belting out competent ten minute epics is nothing short of awe-striking. However, while the material on hand was still inspired and played with a great deal of conviction, the stars didn’t align quite as well as they had for one track a year before. Garden of Shadows with “Flames of the Silver Sea” on it would make a formidable contender for one of the finest melodic death metal albums ever released.

Listening to the album makes me very curious how Scum’s career may have panned out had they not ran into label trouble. Given the nature of their melodic influence and a track record of how bands with a similar approach tended to progress over the years, I always assumed Garden of Shadows was a polarising record created on the behest of the faction most keen to embrace the mellowness, leading to internal strife, a subsequent implosion and the record being buried. This is anything but the case – Garden of Shadows is a confident, competent record retaining the band’s unique edge while enhancing their palette with improved musicianship and subtle nods to then-current developments. Seeing how everybody and their brother are reuniting their 90s death metal bands these days, along with the band’s decision to finally release their lost album, the singer’s eagerness to discuss the old days and the only musically active member’s decision to leave Spirit Disease in 2015, one can hope a Scum reunion is in the works.



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user ratings (23)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
turnip90210
December 4th 2016


400 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've wanted to hear this thing for years. Now it's available as name-your-own-price on Bandcamp. No reason not to check it out, really.



https://blood-music.bandcamp.com/album/garden-of-shadows

Archelirion
Contributing Reviewer
December 4th 2016


5399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Was listening to this yesterday, really excellent record. Awesome review as well, have a pos!



A reunited Scum would be great on the strength of this, so long as they can pick up where they left off. Might be hard, but it'd be interesting regardless.

necropig
December 4th 2016


2820 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Little bit about the release

https://www.facebook.com/BlooodMusic/posts/1267217806668877

Digging: Spirit Adrift - Curse of Conception

50iL
December 4th 2016


4238 Comments


This looks very interesting...

Digging: Yes - Fragile

Inveigh
December 5th 2016


26281 Comments


This sounds pretty neat

Alastor
December 5th 2016


1748 Comments


I'm glad for Scum they could finally release their album. Black Mark has to be one horrible label.

SCREAM!
December 5th 2016


14766 Comments


solid stuff

Geadom
December 5th 2016


3745 Comments


Posting as reminder to check this


MarsKid
December 5th 2016


5545 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

So their label just ditched them?



That's just not right.

Digging: Planes Mistaken for Stars - Up In Them Guts

Mordaunt
December 5th 2016


16 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Rather a bad joke than a (melodic) death album. It sounds like a random rehearsal session.

Alastor
December 6th 2016


1748 Comments


5.0 classic
Agalloch Ashes Against the Grain
Beyond The Black Songs Of Love And Death
Enslaved In Times
Five Finger Death Punch The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side...
Five Finger Death Punch The Wrong Side of Heaven... Vol. 2

MarsKid
December 6th 2016


5545 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well would you look at that

frozencarl
December 6th 2016


199 Comments


this album was tasty

necropig
December 6th 2016


2820 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That one though

¬.¬

MarsKid
December 6th 2016


5545 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

There's always that one guy huh

SylentEcho
December 7th 2016


1606 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cool album! We need more reviews like these about bands few know about.



Songs that really stood out were, 'Mountain of the Hawks' , 'On the Altar of the Mystic Centuries (Prologue) ' and 'Trilogian Tales'.

necropig
December 7th 2016


2820 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Check karmacipher. New relatively unknown band similar to the likes of ulcerate and dead congregation

SCREAM!
December 7th 2016


14766 Comments


"New relatively unknown band similar to the likes of ulcerate and dead congregation"

Neither of which sound like Scum..?

necropig
December 7th 2016


2820 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm not making a comparison to them because I was replying to... "We need more reviews like these about bands few know about."

MarsKid
December 7th 2016


5545 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I definitely try my best to do that, but I haven't had any releases to give that treatment to yet.



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