Surprisingly there is only one band called Scalpel that I could find on my research into this US band and let’s face it that medicine, science, technology has given metal a wealth of band names. This is their second album and having given the debut a listen it is clear that the band changed direction as the debut was a no nonsense bludgeoning affair that came out in 2013 called “Sorrow And Skin”. Quite whether during the intervening four years the band has taken stock of which way to go is arguable as this sophomore sees them take their musicianship into a far more technical realm.
The core of the bands brutality is intact when the opener “The Cleaner” starts, but as the song progresses it adopts a multitude of tempo changes that seemingly appear randomly and without direction. The guitar work is often manic and at times it sounds like they’re all playing different songs but then coalesce suddenly as parts of the opener are like Cryptopsy. With all that in mind for just for the first song, this is a challenging listen as “Labors Of Loathing” continues that chaotic structuring as the riffs topple over each other with the drums rolling around the song trying to hold the song up.
There are plenty of algebraic death metal bands as Scalpel manage to be different by dovetailing multiple riffs against each other that may not sit snugly but results in songs like “The Stink” being technically elaborate with variegated time shifts that are poured onto the listener like an avalanche much like Suffocation during their most intricate phase of work, i.e. “Pierced From Within”. I’m afraid to use the term but occasionally the riffs take on an avant-garde stance sort of like a grinding version of Voivod on “Feeding The Worm” as the songs speed is frenetic, with the drums rabidly biting randomly into the song, allowing the riffs to flamboyantly flow yet butt against each other.
The calming yet eeriness of “Interdelude” leads directly into the title track which initially has a more traditional death metal poise but soon unfurls into the technical mania even though the song in its own right isn’t that fast. “The Woodsman (Part II)” however has a grind feel and actually has a more strait laced approach as the drumming threatens a blast beat, preferring to maintain a steady beat with the riffs cascading and tumbling from the track in waves of utter violence that continues with “Brooding In The Gloom” that sees the pace notched up and the drums batter the listener into oblivion with some deft snare work. The vocals are everywhere with multiple tones as the pace shifts occur randomly with the track festooned with a myriad of riffs before pausing for a barbaric grind riff.
This is a very challenging album, one that takes the essence of technical death metal and grind and moulds it into something very different indeed. It is an album that takes more than a few listens to absorb as I have had the album for quite a while before submitting my review of it and I am still hearing new stuff even as I am typing the review up now. One to sit back, listen, concentrate and not be disturbed.
(7.5/10 Martin Harris)