Brave the Cold – Scarcity Review

When it was announced that guitarist Mitch Harris and drummer Dirk Verbeuren were collaborating for some kind of death metal project, I was unsure exactly what to expect. Mr. Harris is a grand progenitor of grind, starting out with Righteous Pigs before joining Napalm Death in 1989. Since then he’s helped define an entire genre and dabbled in weirdness on the side, as with Meathook Seed. On the other hand, Dirk Verbeuren has played with Megadeth, Soilwork, Devin Townsend, Warrel Dane, and any number of black and death metal acts. With such a widely traveled duo, the options seem limitless. What they end up delivering on Brave the Cold‘s debut is a diverse and interesting amalgam of hardcore, grind, Fear Factory-style cyber-death, and Voivodian weirdness, all imbued with a surprising amount of venom and vitriol. It’s an angry, aggressive beast but it’s also oddly accessible with plenty of bells and whistles to hook the ear and keep the listener intrigued.

Things open in exuberant fashion with the punky grind of “Blind Eye.” It’s urgent, in-your-face thrash madness with an unmistakable Ministry vibe which makes things a bit weird and off-kilter. It has a cold, slightly industrial feel, and Harris delivers some crazed vocals ranging from blood curdling screams to harsh rasps that sound a lot like Mille from Kreator. The song is full of scathing riffs, hyper-kinetic drumming, and all around lunacy and it packs quite a punch. “Hallmark of Tyranny” is a bit more restrained by comparison and reminds me of Napalm Death‘s Harmony Corruption era. At the halfway point things slow down as some Burton C. Bell-esque clean vocals with robo-effects take center stage before everything collapses into insane blasting. The jumble of styles is effective if scattershot and I keep returning to this song. “Retrograde” sees the duo dive deep in Voivod waters with quirky riffs, time signatures and effects-heavy clean vocals that sound like Denis Bélanger. It makes for a bumpy ride but I enjoy the chaos and the attempt to cram several styles into something cohesive.

As the rest of Scarcity unspools you get various takes on a modern variety of grind, with some punky d-beats showing up alongside the thrashing anger on “Dead Feed” and “Necromatrix.” “Upheaval” takes grind and mashes it up with moments that sound like Kreator‘s Endorama and shoehorns in somber, liturgical vocals that fell off the Fvneral Fvkk confessional. It’s a strange horse of a different color to be sure. Scarcity never lacks for raw energy and heaviness and the efforts to blend genres are certainly intriguing and result in a few fun chestnuts. Sadly, not every song totally works and the album ends with a few cuts that feel less memorable. That being said, I think this is a more dynamic and interesting album than the new Napalm Death platter and the effort to modernize familiar sounds pays big dividends when it works.

Mr. Harris provides a bundle of mean, hard-hitting riffs that power the songs along at warp speed. Some leads feel like they could fit on past Napalm Death outings and others are pure thrash and crossover. When things get weird, as on “Retrograde,” he does some of his best work, creating cold, futuristic moods and sounds. I would love to hear more of that if there’s another album in the future. His vocals here are completely loony tunes, at times approaching the unhinged levels of Blaine Cook of The Accüsed. His screaming can be a bit off-putting but overall I enjoy the raw, savage delivery, though not everyone will. Dirk Verbeuren brings a rabid intensity to the kit and there’s a non-stop barrage launched from the backline for most of Scarcity. He’s a technical drummer and that comes out as the album bobs and weaves along, sampling this genre and that, and he brutalizes the skins impressively.

Scarcity is an ambitious side project from a talented twosome of metal musicians. It has its flaws and shortcomings but you can’t fault their urge to try new things and push the grind envelope. I hope to hear more from Brave the Cold as this is one of those out of left field albums that caught me by surprise in a good way. Worth checking out for sure.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Mission Two Entertainment
Releases Worldwide: October 2nd, 2020

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