SCARVE return with a much anticipated follow up (at least it was for me) to “Irradiant”. “The Undercurrent” is full of progressive, industrial, and death influences but blends them all together so that each plays off of one another in a well thought out and delightful offering.
This album is not an easy listen though. At first listen, I found the album to feel spastic and scattered sounding and there were many times I thought about just changing it - luckily I didn't. This album deserves much recognition in its ordered chaos sound. There is much to love upon second and third listening. So if on first listen the album doesn't quite appeal - give it a couple more chances before sending it out to the farm.
The guitar work is well composed on “The Undercurrent”. Although strangely enough for Metal, the guitars are not the focus of the album. There are some very heavy Death Metal riffs that garner a repetitive and mechanical feel giving the album a strong dose of industrial feel (think STRAPPING YOUNG LAD for rhythms here). The leads are sparse on the album. They do grace our presence every once in a while and when they do they are expertly placed and well incorporated in the music. Solos aren't a necessary on most of the songs and thusly only appear at climaxes of songs (“Fathomless Descent” has a particularly impressive solo). The guitars quickly change tempo and sound on the album so expect everything from down tuned crunch to gothic tones in “The Undercurrent”.
The bass work is quite good - there is a lot of progressive feel at times when the bass does deviate from the rhythm sections of the songs. The bass does flow pretty evenly from a Death Metal crunch to DREAM THEATER-esque technicality without much pause. The song “A Few Scraps Of Memories” has some amazing bass work in it. Not to mention guitars.
Believe it or not the most impressive aspect of “The Undercurrent” is not the guitars or vocals - but in fact the drumming. The drumming is both technical and varied in sound without ever losing that Metal edge. His Progressive Death Metal style leaves almost nothing to be desired. Each song has a very different drum track to it - one that focuses on cymbal work, another which focuses on unusual bass drum patterns. The variety is almost endless and each song furthered my amazement.
Despite the loss of a great vocalist in Guillaume Bideau to MNEMIC prior to the recording of this album, SCARVE never seemed to have missed a beat in getting a new (and equally) good vocalist. The two separate vocal tracks, one being clean and the other being guttural, give the album a wide variety of sounds. The vocal melodies aren't as good as some previous releases but the album did not really need to have impressive vocal patterns - the music in itself is quite impressive and the vocals fit excellent with music.
Overall, “The Undercurrent” is top notch Metal from France. No one really every thinks that often but in this case it is the truth. There is much to be appreciated on the album. “The Undercurrent” is a very appropriate title for this release. This one is going to slide right by most main stream metalheads and many will never know the gem they missed.
Songs to check out: “Endangered”, “Fathomless Descent”, “Rebirth”.
(Online September 12, 2007)