The more we try to pin down a definitive definition of metal music, the more difficult it gets. At a certain point, we’ll all channel our inner Justice Potter Stewart and simply say we know it when we hear it. With a glut of bands in the scene, we find a parallel to academia in a certain hyper-specialization, where one particular aspect of one particular corner of the scene is focused on and explored through a new creation built upon the foundations of old ones. This is why the classics are of crucial importance: we need always to be reminded of the wellspring metal came from.
Global Scum is a one-man project of Manuel Harlander, hailing from Austria. If one has the talent (and Harlander certainly does), a one-man project allows for a focused vision of what metal is to an individual to be promulgated, without concessions or creative differences. Metal to Global Scum finds its realization in groove; that dark and punishing sound associated with Pantera and modernized with the help of death metal from Sweden, which focused on a newfound sense of melody and streamlined the process. Bands like Illdisposed and Prevail occupy similar territory, but Global Scum also takes numerous cues from Max Cavelera’s songcraft from Chaos AD up through Inflikted.
Hell is Home uses simple song structures to shift focus entirely to groove riffs, many of which are derivative but solid. “When Blood Turns to Water” apes “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled” in its refrain effectively, and finishes with a big Sepultura-esque buildup to a chunky Illdisposed style riff. “Treacherous Assault” brings a cross between Cavalera Conspiracy’s Inflikted and Illdisposed to mind, and the obnoxious pummeling is shallow but entertaining nonetheless. Harlander seems to understand the fun factor baked into groovy metal; “Life in Chains” has a shout-along chorus that wouldn’t be out of place on Soulfly’s 3, and Global Scum plays it entirely straight-faced. There’s no element of parody here, which is precisely why it’s fun; Harlander clearly enjoys his groovy metal, and lets his inspiration take him where it may.
Sometimes this inspiration leads to ill-advised but not fatal mistakes. “Amok” has a punk edge to it, and Harlander plays the stuff well. However, the polished, clear, and streamlined production takes away that sloppy edge that punk always had; think of it analogous to a highly competent Autopsy cover that suffers due to the use of a drum machine. A well-oiled machine can only replicate so far, after all. “Global Scum” plays with something that reminds of Slayer’s “Cast the First Stone” intro, and while the payoff is good the buildup is mediocre. “Disappointed Life” needlessly apes the beginning sounds of “Back to the Primitive” and wastes about twenty-five seconds on this. These are but tiny hiccups across a ten-track record, however, so the hits still outweigh the misses.
What is metal, then? This is a debate that will be brought into reviews, forums, and editorials until the genre as we know it is no more. Hell is Home sees Global Scum throwing an answer into the running: metal is riffy, metal is aggressive, metal is kinetic, metal is fun. Hell is Home isn’t profound, and that’s because it need not be; some things are just simple and simply enjoyable. The question may be raised as to whether or not we want more out of our music. Much like a simple night in with your loved one can be just as enjoyable as an extravagant night out, metal that makes the brain rattle can be just as enjoyable as metal that makes your brain work. Global Scum is that fun simplicity, not something for the ages but something which is easy to enjoy. Sadly, it’s also easy to forget about amidst the sea of other metal out there, but that doesn’t detract too noticeably from a decent first effort from Mr. Harlander.