You’ve all heard the adage about variety and spices, right? Variety keeps things fresh and interesting. After all, if Colonel Sanders only used one herb and/or spice for his fried chicken, would it taste as lively? Some beers get away with using only a single hop or malt, but more often than not, you see brewers add a whole cornucopia of shit (not literally, mind you) to their beers to give you the taste you crave. What am I getting at? Greece’s Embrace of Thorns dropped their fifth album, Scorn Aesthetics, into my hot little paws. I’ve listened to this album at least five times. I’ve listened to it on my way to and from work. I’ve also lit candles, darkened my living room, and rotated the house cats for freshness and spirit-warding. What did I find?
The answer lies in your desire to explore well-trodden paths of yesteryear. And by “yesteryear,” I mean “early Amorphis and Rotting Christ“, and by “early Amorphis and Rotting Christ,” I mean “Isthmi most Karelian and Serviams most Non.” In other words, deathy, doomy, and blacky are the adjectives of the day. When Embrace of Thorns rips, they rip pretty fucking ferociously, such as in the first half of “Mutter Aller Leiden,” where blastbeats, atmospheric riffs by Herald of Demonic Pestilence, and the cavernous growls of Archfiend DevilPig congeal into a viscous, howling mass of grotesque majesty. Elsewhere, “Stoking the Fire of Resentment” bulldozes with powerful drumming, rapid-fire riffing, and just the right pinch of foreboding to keep things fresh.
But the rest of the album lacks spice. Many of the songs begin with an atmospheric riff, which loses its atmosphere fairly quick when it’s repeated beyond its sell-by date, and most of the songs drone on and on past their effectiveness. By the time the title track kicks in (which is track 5 of 7), I’ve pretty much heard all that Embrace of Thorns have to offer, but for some reason, they keep hammering away. Case in point: the nine-minute long “In Our Image, After Our Likeness” drags on with little variance, seemingly content with burrowing its wheels deeper into the mud. Closer “Wolf Uncaged_Prometheus Unbound”1 feels double the length at half of the previous track’s duration, further hurting the band’s cause.
Also, the mix helps Scorn Aesthetics about as much as a customer at a five-star restaurant helps out by cutting up raw chicken to dump directly into a fresh salad. The drums don’t sound as powerful as they should, and while I appreciate Rampike’s bass being audible, it is otherwise just there. But nothing is as there as the songwriting itself. With the exceptions of the first half of “Mutter Aller Leiden” and bits of “Stoking the Fire of Resentment,” I had one hell of a time trying to remember anything about Scorn Aesthetics, and I’d spent a good solid week with it. Much of it bled together so much that it felt like I was listening to one song over and over, and that’s never a good sign for an album’s longevity.
I get that it’s difficult to crack into a heavily populated genre such as blackened death metal, but you’ve got to mix things up just enough to draw interest and keep people occupied. Sadly, Scorn Aesthetics missed the mark. While not inherently bad, there’s little on here that I can recommend to the discerning listener that you haven’t heard already, but done better. Teitanblood, this ain’t.