Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Empire of the Scourged - Transcend Into Oblivion

Empire of the Scourged call themselves an avant-garde industrial death metal band. For once, a band has categorized themselves with a certain degree of accuracy. With Transcend Into Oblivion they set a path forward which is sure to grab the attention of death metal fans and industrial fans a like. Their presentation is modern and sharp and visually gripping. The cover art for Transcend is a welcome change from the gore-obsessed and it's subtle innuendo is just extreme as the most viscera-splattered decomposing twelve-year old covered in excrement. Gas masks in a field of daisies somewhere on the Eastern Front as the crows fly overhead all drenched in a bloody crimson. It sounds bland and lame, yes, but it's actually far from having the feel of some deathcore band with an indecipherable witty name. It ties well to the music which is also sharp, stylized and unashamedly modern. The industrial elements tie into the death metal well, create unique textures and an interesting listen.

 Opening track, "Der Wanderer Uber Dem Nebelsee," the only German titled track on this EP, sets off the listen rather adequately. The siren in the intro, though it connects with the imagery of the release, is too mundane for this recording, especially with the creative use of chirps, synthesizer noises, samples and general textural adventurism which is evidenced throughout the track. Some clean vocals are hidden in a memorable interlude section which might last too long. "Hollow Machinations of the Foul Spirited" is a heavier track, layered with eerie keys and thick tremolo guitar riffs and is similar in many ways to final track "A Scarred Horizon" which also is the most death metal centered song on on the release. The songs are heavy, fast and have a lot of unique ideas thrown into them. With the standout identifier for Empire of the Scourged in these track still being the industrial aspects, I think that the band needs to figure out when to let loose without the keys and without the samples. Songs like these, death metal and grind at their heart, would be served well by allowing some riffs to breathe while using the alienesque tones and textures of the synthesizers to emphasize and highlight and select moments.

"Trapped In This Massive Process" is probably my favorite track on the release due to the integration of all the elements that Empire of the Scourged attempt to pull into their sound. It's the most realized example of what I would like to hear on a full length. It's decisively death metal tinged with grindcore and split with industrial segments that invoke the experience of being on an assembly line where bodies are being pulled apart and reconfigured as eyes and brains are kept functioning through mechanical and unnatural methods. With the track leading into the nightmarish "Foul Machinations of a Hollow Spirit," somehow connected to the similarly named second track, these are the best moments. Hammered piano keys, female vocals and atonal textural percussion parts come into each others range and collide head on with the death metal drumming and guitar riffs. These two tracks emphasize what Empire of the Scourged do best with this release - the industrial soundscapes. While the death metal components are acceptable, this would sound very disjointed without the samples and synthesizers providing avenues for the riffs to meet each other. Even within the chaos, Empire need to make sure their songs follow some sort of composition which makes them sound more like songs and less like riffs and samples pasted over each other. Transcend Into Oblivion isn't bad at all but you can tell that this is still project finding their footing.

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