When I’m not knee-deep in moonlight and grave-soil, espousing the charnel delights of death metal’s immortal old-school, I can be found belligerently vibrating in the eye of a thrash storm, armed with only the most hostile and confrontational of riffs. S. Vrath is a man that well knows my plight. Guitarist, vocalist, and sometimes bassist of Scythian and Craven Idol, here is an individual that understands the importance of a well-forged riff and the immediate implications for my beleaguered vertebrae. Poised to release their second full-length, The Shackles of Mammon, British blackened thrashers Craven Idol spent the last 4 years in the wake of their impressive debut further honing the thrash-lash, ready to inflict a steady maelstrom of molten rhythms and incendiary leads — but can their latest collection of jagged edges sate my bestial urges? I love the smell of black-thrash in the morning!
Craven Idol, if you are unfamiliar with them, play an indulgent form of black-thrash, one which borrows from the likes of luminaries Bathory and the early Teutonic thrash scene whilst never shying away from black metal’s notorious second wave. The Shackles of Mammon introduces us to a somewhat re-engineered band, with Jesel Gohil and Mike Beonetleah taking up the mantle of drummer and guitarist respectively. Perhaps in part thanks to this new blood, this second offering is a noticeably more mature and altogether superior beast – thankfully, however, Vrath and co. haven’t chosen to shy away from the occasional old fashioned face-melter following this newfound growth. “Pyromancer” ignites the record and wastes nary a second in flaying flesh from bone, with sirens of storied tremolos and S. Vrath’s maniacal screaming peeling away the layers. It’s a statement piece, wreathed in spite and billowing smoke from its lungs, it also manages to belie the album’s deceptively varied content.
If you were lucky enough to find Scythian‘s latest album, Hubris in Excelsis, on your radar then you’ll have an idea as to S. Vrath’s penchant for dynamic yet mercurial rhythms. His work on Shackles is no departure, with the Kreator friendly “A Ripping Strike” revealing a veritable library of mouth-watering riffs. Comparatively mid-paced in nature, it makes bold use of Vrath and Beonetleah’s dual guitar lines and rifles through a collection of absolutely deadly hooks. Exotic eastern melodies float atop Gohil’s tantrum of blasting while the chorus mimics classic Mille Petrozza. Craven Idol have a tendency to eschew the feral scowl inherent in acts like Aura Noir‘s upfront material in favor of a more classic and, in the parlance of teens everywhere, “epic” sound. They also know exactly when to squarely introduce boot to face – such is the case with the Venom-on-steroids “Black Flame Divination,” recalling the very best of Cronos’ blackened brigadiers, and shrieking through its brief run time with banshee abandon.
Some of these things, however, are not like the others. With such a dynamic first half, the album’s last few cuts are lacking in comparison. The songs are above average but don’t quite measure up when stacked against their rabid brethren. I enjoy the last three tracks when they are present, but, like some gossamer memory, after I’ve hit repeat to be resolutely horse-whipped by “Pyromancer” and “A Ripping Strike” for the umpteenth time, I find them mysteriously difficult to recall. A prime offender is closer “Tottering Cities of Man.” The lurching pace of its doom inspired gait seems to descend into a shuffle before its overlong run-time flickers out, and what was clearly designed to be a monumental end staggers under its own weight — a pity when cuts like “Dashed to Death” and specifically “The Trudge” utilize more measured tempos to fantastic effect, fusing the album’s inviting production with an emphasis on the German thrash of yore and the chill of Norwegian black metal’s distinct guitar style.
Craven Idol have undoubtedly improved upon their blistering debut by reinforcing the follow up with enhanced structure and cohesion. Although The Shackles of Mammon does have a tendency to play it safe with a handful of tracks, the lack of compromise in the album’s main body is exemplary of the category’s savagery and left me smoldering and spent for much of our time together. If you have even a passing interest in the advancement of the genre or find yourself hankering for a little soul-thrashing black sorcery — and if not, why not — then rest assured this is the record to scorch that itch. Cast aside your false idols — embrace thy Craven masters!