There are so many labels, myself included, doing tapes and shit these days... it's hard to find one that is putting out cool shit. When No Visible Scar's promo pack got dumped on my desk, and I opened it to find a bunch of random shit to review, I sighed, looked at the ten page list of other stuff I've been trying to review and get done and figured that I should try and at least knock out a couple of these reviews quick. Luckily, quick and Cassette-singles go hand in hand. Two of the tapes sent happened to be two song cassette singles in neat little cardboard packages. One of which, Earthlord's Earthmission single, has some serious history to it. The other, Scorched Earth's Marauders quickie is a bit more mundane. Here's both reviews together since, well, they are so short there isn't much need for a single review for both!
Tackling Scorched Earth's Marauders single from No Visible Scars is pretty basic in it's criticism. Formed by Terry McCorriston Scorched Earth's black / thrash style is prevalent on this tape. Once you get past the doomy intro, "Thy Kingdom Doomed" and ransack through the constantly beating rhythms of the title track, "Marauders," you find that there's a certain sense of dullness through the tape with someone boring and over-long melody based riffs. For me, the best part of the tape is bassist Sanford Johnson's interesting scales and free-range playing. The production - it is a tape of course - but I feel like it's missing something to make at least something pop which reinforces that dull and numb feeling of the release. Second song, "Harken to Your Allfather" is stronger and retains more interesting ideas and execution. The lead by Matt Fields also really helps add some standout moments to what was a better track.
A while back I reviewed Astrum's Tales of Witchlore and this reminds me of a better version of that. I would say that Scorched Earth are still on the right track after some good albums and such earlier in their career but the band is no longer active. Unfortunately for Scorched Earth there are more bands doing this style and better at it than they are. The Czech band Avenger comes to mind, also local band Clamfight - though they emphasize a sludgier take share some similar riff patters and styles at times. Speedwolf also come to mind though, Speedwolf are on a pile of skulls far higher than Scorched Earth in terms of overall consistency, riffing memorability, attitude and general kick-assery. I think it all goes back to how white-washed this release sounds. It's too safe for black thrash.
No Visible Scars' Earthlord single is simply a must-own for collectors of US Doom and Metal. The most notable aspect of Earthlord would be perennial service-leader Phil Swanson of Hour of 13, Vestal Claret, the awesome Briton Rites and the epic Atlantean Kodex. Add Fred Melillo of Connecticut's Legend to the mix and you've a sure-fire project that will create, at the very least, something awesome. Though the project is on indefinite hiatus, my hopes is they get together to put together another awesome release because this reminds me of a lot of stuff I'm into. It's got a decisively 90's Heavy Metal feel to it and it shares a lot in common with US Power Metal from this era. There's a spacey atmosphere to accompany the whole thing also which is a bit unique.
First track, "Gods of Antiquity," is the harder hitting of the two songs, pretty straight-forward Heavy Metal / Doom. The highlight though is B-side "He Who Is Of The Water," which is one of the more unique tracks ever. Swanson's vocals are distinctive and sound a bit like he's pretending to be a ghost - or some other creature speaking from the beyond. Bill Ladley (Upwards of Endtime fame - fame used lightly here but the band also included some other well known members) plays almost the whole song through a wah-pedal and the lead halfway through just makes you want to lay back and get burned. If this song was out there in 1980, it could have replaced Don Felder's "Taking A Ride" for the intro sequence of Heavy Metal. It's just got that out there feel. The whole vibe is that of stumbling through your own drug induced comatose and watch the world not understand why you're perfectly alright laying on the wet grass of your neighbors lawn.
Great stuff with this one.