These Australians describe their music as “Unblack” Death Metal, but FEARSCAPE clearly lean towards Melodic or somewhat Progressive (Un)Black Metal more than anything else.
On their second full-length album, “Scent Of Divine Blood”, the bands music which is based mostly on Christian themes boldly explores all the darkness and brooding atmospheres one typically associates with the darker side of this musical genre, and there is some very impressive musicianship to go along with it, particularly from guitarist Peter Willmott who has perfectly mastered combining delicate melodies along with semi-progressive lines and still being heavy and ‘trve’ enough for fans of the traditional bands. Not just limited to searing distortion, his delicate acoustic guitar work on many of the songs like the title track, and in particular the instrumental that closes the album is some of the best of this style that I’ve ever heard on an Extreme Metal album, while his more traditional heavy side also shines very expressively on tracks like “Abbadon Destroyer”. His solos are more in the style of long singing notes rather than any sort of shredding, and he always plays with great taste.
Vocalist Matt Brown also does a good job throughout the album, sounding a lot like Grutle Kjellson from ENSLAVED with his raspy shrieks and growls, but also occasionally using clean vocals such as the operatic backing voices on the musical saga “Inheritance Of Dust” that adds nicely to the dramatic mood of the song. The drum and bass playing from Paul Dimitrievich and Phil Bloomfield respectively, are quite good with Phil being nicely prominent in the audio mix, adding a good low end to the songs and also playing some great melodic parts on tracks like “Terrible Majesty” that really push the song forward.
All the songs are quite well constructed, and the band does also like to play extended instrumental sections that avoid being overly repetitive. My favorite track would be the aforementioned “Inheritance Of Dust” which begins with a catchy bass melody and then develops into something quite aggressive with heavy rhythm guitars that swirl away while Matt’s eerie shrieks are later countered by an operatic voice, which seems to bring light to the otherwise dark atmosphere of the song. Phil’s bass is once again a key melodic instrument on this track, helping steady Peter’s almost orchestral guitar riffs that include both distorted and cleaner tones.
For any of you that might be a bit leery of listening to Christian music, as I already mentioned, most of the songs are rather dark and have the same ‘feel’ of standard Progressive BM. (As an aside, personally I think it’s stupid to criticize a band for their faith. I’m not a Satanist and yet I enjoy the music of DISSECTION and others, so why the double standard from so many other fans of Extreme Metal?).
The album closes with a beautiful but somber guitar and piano instrumental piece, “Ex Animus Ad Astrum” (Latin for “From the dust to the stars”) which was inspired by a personal experience of Peter’s. As he explained to me, the song musically recounts seeing a loved one dying and having the bittersweet feelings of closeness but all the while knowing they will soon be gone. Just like in the tragedies of life, the song ends abruptly, leaving only silence - and questions. The actual musical portion of the track listed as nearly thirteen minutes in length total, is only about three and a half minutes long, in case you were wondering.
By all measures, “Scent Of Divine Blood” is a fine album and one that I would recommend to all fans of Progressive or Melodic oriented Black Metal. FEARSCAPE have managed to combine the best of the traditional styles with an elegant and melodic compositional approach that should also appeal to a wider Metal audience.
(Online August 24, 2008)