Review Summary: Fluid like a shadow.
Technical death metal has certainly done the rounds over the course of the last couple of decades. I mean, one look down the slippery slopes of the genre and you’re likely to find more acts than you could throw a heavily used ride cymbal at—but more importantly, it has allowed the genre to grow and expand, bridging the gaps between unrivalled heaviness and progression in both style and technical ability. The Scalar Process, hailing from France, draws inspiration from the genre’s pioneering acts (mainly in acts such as Cynic, Death, Gorguts etc) and combines it with the natural modernism found within those groups that would appear after these forefathers. Fairly, mentions of Beyond Creation, The Faceless and Fallujah could potentially paint The Scalar Process with a different brush, but Coagulative Matter
is an impressive debut regardless of the perception founded by other bands. The problem France’s The Scalar Process faces, however, is saturation.
In typical fashion, Coagulative Matter
begins in a whirlwind of bleeding dissonant leads and foreboding atmosphere. It doesn’t take long for the band’s instrumental sections to introduce blast beats and reaching riffs, a stereotype providing a consistent aesthetic to a world of death metal that’s ever expanding. There’s a no-frills approach here that prevents the band from dipping into a bloated, over indulgent escapade into more technical climes—a pleasant change of pace for a genre known for introducing saxophone lines at the drop of a hat. That doesn’t mean that The Scalar Process’ debut is unique (or boring), but rather it’s an amalgamation of influences wrapped into a fifty minute full-length. Ultimately it doesn’t quite matter if the band has the proficiency or technical ability to impress if the band’s new fans came down the well worn listening paths as mentioned above. As such, Coagulative Matter
begins to sound like all of its peers, sometimes all at once.
After a short introductory piece (“Elevate”), Coagulative Matter
launches into a mid paced groove fest. “Cosmic Flow” maintains the atmosphere from the album’s starting point and steadily transforms it into a flourish of barking growls, jagged recurring riffs and proficient drum work—but it feels like Coagulative Matter
has two introductions, one played after the other. Even considering this anomaly so early in the album’s run-time, it’s easy to hear the single proficiency of every member of the band. Furthermore, the group’s debut features a slew of guest spots. While Clement Denys (Fractal Universe) handles the drumming duties here, the likes of Fallujah’s Scott Carstairs provides the guitar solo duties on “Ink Shadow”. Mark Garett (of Viraemia fame) provides vocals for “Mirror Cognition” and some contrasting female-led choirs are provided by Enlia for “Azimuth”. Even though these features don’t especially stand out by themselves, they’re important breakers for those who may find some level of monotony between all the riffs and low growls that The Scalar Process presents to its listeners.
What does work for the French-born death heads is the album’s ability to breathe. Take the almost blues-gone-lounge sounds a la “Mirror Cognition” for example. Not only does this track relax on a formula of breakneck speed and virtuosic musicianship, but it’s a direct contrast with the group’s tendency to throw riffs and growls into every stanza which allows its listeners to catch up, reset and recharge for the next onslaught. Let me expand here: Coagulative Matter
isn’t just ‘one’ speed, bludgeoning away at the listeners’ senses. Rather, the album mixes its moments by providing moments of heaviness with introspective sections of ‘cleaner’ soundscapes which gives a listener a more accessible, slightly less demanding experience. On the other hand, “Beyond The Veil of Consciousness” warbles into the fray combining both melody and intensity while providing that level of musicianship, heaviness and basic song-writing awareness that, given a smaller genre-pool, would see The Scalar Process truly stand amongst its peers. The record’s other clear highlight however is Coagulative Matter
’s titular (and longest) track. At eleven minutes “Coagulative Matter” isn’t a breezy listen, but it is by far a more interesting one when compared to the album’s other thirty-nine minutes. It goes back to the saturation issue I’ve brought up earlier—there’s just too much of the band’s formula that’s found in the blueprints of the genre’s heavyweights, middleweights and [sometimes] lesser acts...for better, and worse. Individuality is not this group’s biggest characteristic.
At this point it’s clearly justifiable to give Coagulative Matter
a sweeping, mixed-bag response. Frankly, I like what I hear—but the band’s genetic make-up restricts some of the initial “wow” factor to be found here. Coagulative Matter
is a more than decent death metal record hampered only by the lack of surprises and overall originality. The Scalar Process’ debut is simply an excellent release caught in the shadows of the more prominent acts who released defining albums before it.