ScutumTaking their name from a stream of stars and matter from the trailing arm spiralling out towards the end of the milky way, Scutum Crux are a band that if you go to underground shows in London, chances are you will have caught live. This Polish trio who all live here have built themselves from the ground up into a formidable live force who I have caught a number of times and been impressed by them both musically and image wise. To say they put some great effort in above and beyond the call of duty as far as corpse paint is concerned would be an understatement; visually they look pretty terrifying and alien. Naturally I was pretty pleased when their debut album landed on my door so I could hear what they sound like on recorded media rather than at some dank hellish venue.

Starting with ‘Reign Of Apzu’ we have one of several instrumental pieces of the album. It’s austere and somewhat grim, like an imperialist death march as it strides purposely out with some spacey like astral coldness behind it. From there we romp into ‘Chaos Ritual’ and the bands heavyset assault really gets underway with pounding drum flurries, scything guitars and growling demonic blackened vocal rasps courtesy of Necrosadistic Goat Torture, Sturmtiger’s Demiurge. It’s not about all out fury by any means as the song has many intricate and underlying parts from spiralling fretwork and retains a good sense of melody throughout. Drummer Svarth drives everything along at a cracking pace and ‘Demon Scutum’ has him hammering away as the vocals roar and rise to suitably beastly peaks. It’s good to note that this commands head banging as well on disc as it does live. A splash of cold icy keyboards is somewhat unexpected amidst the clattering assault giving it room to breathe a bit before a flailing guitar solo emerges and the track hones back in for a final flurry.

Although this has black metal at its heart and numbers like ‘Invocation Of Powers’ are pretty near demonic in execution and fervour as with many Polish bands there is a healthy mix of deathlike sounds going on here too. This is more noticeable as we get into ‘Under The Second Sun’ with low growling vocals and a bit of a denser sound permeating it at first. This moves way into more feral rasps and classic Norse sounding guitar lines though and one thing is sure it certainly isn’t one dimensional at all. At just about the right length of 40 minutes after being given a good pummelling it’s up to last instrumental ‘Horus’ to take us on a final trip to the cold wastes of space before silence is once again installed.

So a pretty solid demo with lots happening and some good ideas to build upon here. I think the band may well go onto consolidate things and have not reached their full potential quite yet but this is an impressive start and no doubt a good taste of things to come.

(7/10 Pete Woods)