Review Summary: When an absurd variety of metal influences form a progressive metal soup, one must ask: do too many subgenres spoil the broth?
Oh boy. What a polarizing album. I say this because it seems like all the reviews I’ve read are essentially hit or miss. Scarred is the 3rd and self-titled album of the eighteen-year-old groove/death/thrash metal band. I have not listened to their discography until recently but, from what I can tell, they are not traditionally progressive. In a sense, this seems like the band’s effort to branch out and try something new. Do their efforts pay off? Short answer: yes. But not in the way you might be expecting.
When this band goes prog, they go all out. The time signature and tempo changes on this album are pretty constant and give you very few breaks to catch your breath. What is more bewildering is that the “prog/groove/death/thrash” thing they have going are not the only sub-genres that they have to showcase. In this chaotic metal soup of an album, there are additional sounds from mathcore, black metal, and … alt-metal? I know. It is reminiscent of the annoying kid in your second-grade class that would drink a blended mix of one pump of every soda in the soda machine.
I’m going to tell you upfront that the first couple listens to this album may not be pretty. Upon my first listen I felt about how the album cover looks: dizzy and confused. A lot of this album’s criticism comes from its seemingly intentional lack of focus. Scarred has no clear consistency and no straightforward continuity throughout the album. A lot of the songs could very easily swap positions without changing the album in a meaningful way.
Whenever you start believing that you have this album figured out, it throws you another curveball. For instance, the first four songs hit you with a good aggressive punch of groove metal riffs with a lot of proggy transitions, somewhat inspired by the kind prevalent in Gojira‘s music. Then the transition track “Prisms” calms you a bit with dissonant guitars that build a dark ominous atmosphere where you hear a growing circus-esque guitar melody. When you are hit with the most unexpected track on the album, “Merry-Go-Round”, which is an out-of-place fun, catchy song that sounds a bit too close to Korn that I would like. Other songs on the album have an uncanny black metal vibe, featuring tremolo picking, blast beats, and double-bass drums, along with vocals that remind me a bit of Ihsahn.
It is clear that this band is not lacking in a variety of interesting ideas, but their assembly and general aesthetic decisions on this album are very questionable. I would also say that this band doesn’t know how to stay focused on one unified concept if it wasn’t for the sense that this chaos feels intentional; the song “A.D…Something” may just be referring to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. One can really only speculate what the artist’s intentions are for their work.
With that said, there is a lot of great content woven into this album. In a certain light, Scarred has really delivered a complex album with a unique atmosphere that will defy conventional expectations. This why they deserve credit for their originality. Additionally, the fact that their interludes do well to build up to their best material, shows that they are capable of mature songwriting, and that they know where their best material is. Songs like “Prisms” and “Lua” do this well, which build-up, and allude to melodies of their best songs.
Overall, this is something for you if you are looking for a progressive metal album with a bit of everything, with an emphasis on big Gojira riffs. It was a bit off-putting for me the first couple of rounds, but after letting it sink in, I began to enjoy more of what it has to offer. However, I don’t know if this is something I’d want to go back to as often as other albums we’ve reviewed. Only time will tell.