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Hubris In Excelsis

Hells Headbangers (2015)
Rating: 8.5/10

It’s great to see the city of London spewing out some classy deathly thrash metal. Scythian part the waves of smog and taint the clouds black with their unholy brand of war-torn savagery, this opus being the first full-length offering since the 2009 debut To Those Who Stand Against Us…

In a sense, the pressure is on Scythian slightly given they are the first British band to joining the Hells Headbangers roster, but before hearing this new nine track affair I had faith that the boys could turn up the heat and make their new label proud.

Often with British bands, we tend to get treated to an almost rainy, earthy and above all gritty style of extreme metal. One only has to look at our extreme metal history and note the long list of bands, including Bolt Thrower, to know what I mean, but Scythian are very different; suggesting more of a homage to the South American scene at times with flecks of Sarcofago thrown in for good measure along with vintage Sodom.

This is furious death / thrash with salivating jaws, flailing barbed limbs and rancid breath sure to wake up the UK scene and gain the attention of metal fans worldwide. This isn’t just a case of the band paying simple homage to old school titans, however; instead, they lace their sound with a contemporary design which enables the instruments to rumble in ominous fashion – all the while retaining that old school, snarling edge.

The outfit has also mastered the art of fusing sinister slower passages with some truly atmospheric effects alongside some truly volatile faster segments, the overall result being an intriguing, and in-depth creation very much nodding to that modern blackened death / thrash premise but harbouring a steely, snarling arrogance. And nowhere is this more evident than with the incredible opener ‘Beyond The Dust’, which is so epic in its stature that you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were hearing a veteran band churning out another sure-fire winner. Instead, Scythian is a unit that has only existed since 2004 and been relatively quiet within that time but boy can this beast move at a pace.

With ‘Beyond The Dust’ there are moments of aggression, but when the title track starts, it’s a case of bolting the doors and donning the hard hats because with those snappy, froth-filled vocal sneers of S. Vrath, you are sure to find yourself scorch from the flames. The drums hurtle at an incredible pace, the thrashier elements coated with that deathlier tinge – Vrath’s vocals displaying a variety as they shift from rancid scowls to higher pitched yelps. However, there’s still that ability to throw in a curve ball as the band brings in a sinister slower tempo ravaged by a killer solo.

With just two tracks passing, it’s clear that Scythian is a band exuding confidence and showcasing their ability; the guitar sound providing a fiery backdrop and the leads fizzing and popping before the avalanche of drums and bass. I grow tired very often of the numerous modern death / thrash bands, but here there’s enough class and diversity to suggest the band knows how to keep the listener engaged.

‘Apocalyptic Visions’ has a sort of black metal swagger in its plod, led on by that insistent drum punch and the fabulous lead work, while ‘As Tyrants Feast’ is another hurtling mini-classic worth of Slayer, such is its bravado and propensity to flatten with a devilish melody.

The vocals are more than just the usual sneer; instead, they vary again from a harrowing shriek to a darker, deeper bellow. This is powerful stuff; mature and often epic-sounding metal that builds with such energy and intrigue that you never know what’s coming next, as exemplified with the manic ‘Penultimate Truth: Ultimate Deceit’ and the ghastly, Gothic hellfire of ‘The Laws…’. The latter again offers a blazing, atmospheric introduction which offers up a foreboding narration over a kicking drum and aching guitar pattern, but you know that somewhere around that corner there’s going to be another hyper assault and when it comes there’s that crisp yet distinctly furious feel, yet by the time we’ve become mangled by the closing horrors of the eight-minute ‘Dystopia’, one gets the feeling of being thrown into a blender and spat out into a pit of fire.

This is hellish, commanding metal but not one complete reliant on sounding primitive or underground, because in a sense it doesn’t. It’s quite clear cut, concise metal but delivered with such hellish sincerity as to question why these guys aren’t marching to war alongside the likes of Behemoth.

Neil Arnold

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