It’s getting increasingly hard to imagine that 2013’s Towards Eschaton was Craven Idol’s first full-length, and what a debut that was. It wasn’t that the combination of death, black and thrash metal was so original but the way the band hammered it all together into a medieval wrecking ball of body-breaking proportions certainly felt like it was. Tracks like To Summon Maryion and Craven Atonement were as face melting as it comes but with some epic flourishes that did a damn fine job at challenging the likes of Destroyer666 at their own game but while also leaving one foot in the 80s thrash scene and its rough and ready need for brutal speed. Since then the less than coyly named Immolator of Sadistik Wrath and his pals have been on a creative spree that has added more worshipful shrines to the British extreme metal scene than any crew I care to remember in such a short period of time with offerings from related projects Crom Dubh and Scythian – both of which I reverentially reviewed for this very site (getting 8.5/10 each).
Now we have the follow up to Towards Eschaton and things feel a little different this time round. This feels like a typically British take on a well-worn scene – a rebellious kid brother of the Aussie-led blackened thrash scene that refuses to tow the line and instead plays with the black, death metal, thrash formula multiple times in one release in an effort to find new ways to impress while adding some damn fine and much varied extreme vocals to boot. The aim here is undoubtedly true in terms of execution. And there’s a distinct sense that Craven Idol is trying to break free from something and, dare I say it, have a bit of fun in a genre more known for po-faces and grimacing. But whereas that approach seemed to emboldened S Vrath (Sadistik’s other moniker) and A. Satyrus to try a few new things out on Hubris, to wonderful consequence, The Shackles of Mammon feels like a more no nonsense approach which only seems to, well, shackle things too much.
But what’s that? Laughing in the first few bars? Well, perhaps it’s more of a cackle, warming us up for first track, the pogo-ing Pyromancer, which is nothing short of a riot. But after the first couple of tracks, and despite the black punk n roll of Black Flame Divination, the riffs sometimes feel purposefully restrained. There are times when it feels like this is trying to bust a few genre boundaries to provide a new take on the Craven Idol sound is hard to sustain throughout and became a distraction. Ideas feel like they’ve been thrown in at random to create new tracks and to demonstrate this is a band with multiple strings to its otherwise deadly bow.
There are undoubtedly some nice touches – the final extended track Tottering Cities of Men is one that will stay with you. But then the Destroyer-style riff on The Trudge sounds out of place with a band that clearly does not need to emulate anyone and the black thrash blasts of Mammon Est and Hunger seem unnecessarily direct against the pillars of two or three other more lengthy tracks. Maybe I’ve been a little spoilt by some of the other projects which were so fabulously put together that it felt like entering new worlds and this doesn’t quite match up to the debut for sheer creative genius and power. Clearly an outfit to watch even if you might find yourself returning to Scythian’s Hubris or back to Towards Eschaton while you wait for the next instalment.
(7/10 Reverend Darkstanley)