The thorough and rigorous research process1 which all bands with whom I’m unfamiliar undergo relented one key piece of information for Seattle’s A Flourishing Scourge: they shared a bill with Rhine who I reviewed last year and who I noted for their unusual and disparate range of influences. It should therefore not have shocked me to find that the oft-exuberant and liberal tags attached to releases in our promo bin were actually accurate on this occasion. This self-titled album is indeed progressive blackened death metal, fusing one of metal’s most overtly aggressive genres with progressive tendencies and deft interludes. It certainly makes for a rare sound and ironically conforms with the eclecticism I now associate with Seattle’s metal scene but as with Rhine, simply doing something differently doesn’t necessarily correspond with quality. How fares this début record?
A Flourishing Scourge is mostly composed of blackened death metal which is typically heavy and fast, favoring a significant focus on chromatic riffs and tremolo-picked intensity. The dual-guitar attack of Tye Jones and Andrew Dennis interweaves well, resulting in nifty passages which fluctuate between cool counter-melodies and harmonies such as that at 1:25 of “Insatiable.” Despite the material’s pace and force, the melodies always shine through and the good riffs are easy to distinguish. They assuredly love noodly solos too, though these veer close to masturbatory more often that not. The progressive characteristics manifest through piano- and acoustic guitar-led interludes, given their own track on “Awakened” but also integrated into the longer songs. Opening with a one-two punch on “Tidal Waves” and “To the Stench of a Rotting Corpse” was smart as AFS show off all the elements of their sound in 16 minutes densely packed with riffs, acoustic pleasantries and dynamic song-writing.
However, dynamic though it may be to stave off the worst of my ADD symptoms, it’s also somewhat inelegant. There are numerous parts which stand as good music alone but they’re stitched together haphazardly. The writing is linear which isn’t inherently wrong but builds are few and the absence of repetition or choruses limits many tracks’ memorability. Only “To the Stench of a Rotting Corpse,” “Vacant” and “Solace” follow vaguely logical and satisfying structures but even these have their problems. “To the Stench…” lingers over a protracted solo for too long before its epic finale, while “Vacant” boasts the most emotive and powerful climax but shoots itself in the foot by following it with a superfluous extended outro which dilutes its effect. Blunt transitions compound this issue as tracks don’t flow particularly naturally. Had a few of the undoubtedly accomplished passages recurred later, much would have been done to address this problem.
Worse is the sheer volume of blackened death metal here. 60 minutes of such heavy stuff, even with the softer moments, loses me. I spend half my fucking life complaining about the death of editing so I don’t want to linger on this point but when I’m losing focus at the 45-minute mark, that signifies that an album is not solely composed of the best ideas the band could generate. The final two tracks particularly suffer as a result which is a shame: “Solace” has a great second half but it’s an effort to get there. I feel that AFS were unfortunate in this regard as my prior review was that of the delightfully succinct Wode record. And while I’m ticking off the boxes of Stuff That Metal Bands Get Wrong Constantly©, the utterly flat master does the album no favors. The classic Bogren walls are in place but as Jamie Uertz (Gojira, Anthrax) mixed the album, it doesn’t benefit from Bogren’s superior mixing when he does the two processes together.
I would describe A Flourishing Scourge as a highly qualified success. Its core sound is unique and replete with strong riffs and moments. But it’s in the coalescence of these moments and the inclusion of a few not-so-strong ones that the record is limited. Unlike Rhine, AFS are quite focused but are still impeded by similar song-structuring, length and mastering problems. But that progressive blackened death metal tag is certainly fulfilled.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Begotten Records
Websites: aflourishingscourge.bandcamp.com | aflourishingscourge.com | facebook.com/aflourishingscourge
Releases Worldwide: June 9th, 2017