With a name like SCAPHIST, you best believe these Kiwi Death Metal motherfuckers are interested in doling out as much punishment as is humanly possible. What? You don’t know what ‘scaphism’ is? Well, now you do. Pretty cool, right?
Self-released and fast as sin, SCAPHIST’s debut full-length, “Majestic Seal of Antiquity,” is an excursion into the blasphemous realm of Blackened Persian-style Death Metal on a grand fucking scale. Splicing the ambitious and grand structuring of NILE with the overpowering crush of MORBID ANGEL or VADER, Auckland’s SCAPHIST lay waste to other Death Metal acts by way of expertly controlled aggression. Succeeding the album’s Middle Eastern intro, there is not a single dry spot over the next seven songs; just total, relentless mayhem with enough blasting and great chugging hooks to bang that head into the afterlife.
“The Uncreated One” starts things off demonstratively with its evil tremolo grinding and a wealth of skin-shaving blast-beats that meld into huge, thumping grooves. “Sculptures in Shadow” follows a similar pattern, this time with a few Doomier riffs, but again destroys all in its path with a variety of excellent structure choices that give the song plenty of personality. In spite of their (currently) unsigned status, SCAPHIST’s ability to create such a swarm of dynamic and distinct Death Metal tracks propels them past an untold number of bands backed by high profile record labels.
The album isn’t all gore and grandeur, however, as a pair of drawbacks frequent the album: the snare drum’s tinny sound, and the occasionally needless backing-vocal banshee shrieks. I’m not exactly sure who does the screeching, apparently guitarist Harry Benson-Rea and bassist Oli Smith wrench out vocals now and then, but in considering the force and command of lead vox Dylan Williams, their outbursts border on the unnecessary. The drumming, on first listen, sounds a bit too fast and a bit too tight to actually be a human being, and while this may be the case on the recording, a recent video showcasing the dual-handed gravity-blasting skills of Adam Bloomfield confirm otherwise. The aforementioned echoed sound of the snare drum needs a bit of work; a slamming door effect instead of the pots-and-pans smack would give this record an ungodly heavy mix.
Of course, the above drawbacks do little in the way of making “Majestic Seal of Antiquity” even remotely average as a debut record. After the first four songs melt your eardrums with their technical fury, the band completely ups the ante and rips you a new one with the final trio - the seething “Demise of the Sylphs,” the obliterating “Decadence of Prowess,” and the juggernaut closer, “Scaphism.” Huge, conquering riffs barrel non-stop, pushing the pace at all moments, and simply never lose breath.
Death Metal fans will not be disappointed.
(Online September 23, 2011)