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Review: Scalpel – Methods to Delusion

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From Massachusetts, Scalpel are releasing what they call psychedelic death metal, in the form of their album Methods to Delusion, to be released on the 25th of July. Aimed at fans of Death and Suffocation, we are told to expect an old-school death metal sound with a lot of experimentation and very few boundaries. The whole album is actually very inventive and something to be respected at a live show. However the album is also very under-produced, meaning that a lot is left to the imagination as to how good it could have sounded with the right editing.

To begin “The Cleaner” comes in with a very traditional death metal chugging, holding a lot of promise to a deep and merciless growl. Unfortunately, the vocals are way too quiet as far the volume is concerned. Instrumentally, there are some nice transitions in signature and a barrage of riffs throughout this song and many other songs to come. There is a guitar solo that squeals and squeals, but is very hard to hear completely once it scales away on the higher notes – even if you’re listening through headphones on full volume.

Picking up the pace, “Labors of Loathing” is perhaps one of the better songs on the album. Thirty four seconds in, there is a good riff that makes the song shine and a progression which keeps the song enjoyable – I was quite surprised by this turnaround. Truly, this is where the album starts to sound good as the guitar solo is melodic and sweet. The aftermath of the song has everything I liked about 90s death metal bands like Grave and Morbid Angel. At Two minutes and forty seconds, I wished this song could have been longer.

“The Stink” seems to have a very early Suffocation influence. There is a lot of zigzagging guitar work I appreciate, but I just could not ignore the squeaking every time the fretting hands shifted on the guitar. I liked the vocal flow in the verses, and the faster progressions worked well, but I didn’t feel the guitar solo really went anywhere. As you’ll come to notice, guitar solos equally hit and miss on this album.

Fourth on the list, “Feeding the Worm” has a good intro and good verses, but instrumentally, there is too much activity and virtually no connection between the drums and guitars. The guitar solo is very brief and would have sounded better in place had the drumbeat been different. The drums in the majority of this song sound like they are playing a completely different song to the guitars. Needless to say, this was my least favorite track on the whole album.

There is an interlude called ‘Interdelude’, that is not a song by any means, but a more ambient track to mark the halfway point of the album. It is important to note that from this point onwards, the album gets better and better.
The title track “Methods to Delusion” is brilliant both vocally and instrumentally; everything sounds so tight and well connected – I would love to know what went on in that studio to make their songs begin going uphill so steadily.

“The Woodsman (Part II)” is one of the fastest songs, with very nice interjecting riffs and an even better bridge. The bluesy guitar solos match the thrash rhythms very nicely. Beyond that, there is an array of riffs that sound almost like chromatics slams, keyword ‘almost’, the only thing that stopped them from being proper slam riffs was the pace. The other fastest song is “Lung Butter” which also has a good guitar solo to match its thrash rhythm. Strangely enough, this song also has a bridge that came close to slamming.

The very bouncy “Brooding in the Gloom” is the one song that has the bass standing out the most, while the guitar work is a hurricane coming to rip the neighborhood apart, taking a quick rest, and then continuing the decimation of other helpless little towns. I think this is one of the more complex songs bordering onto tech death.

The final track “Intensified Festering” is a testament as to how much tighter and technical the band can be. I really can’t fault anything with this track. I can only smile at what a mixed adventure this album has been.

I give the whole album 7/10, so if you know your basic fractions, that’s three and a half stars. I absolutely love the effort and intent of each song, but the low quality of the recording really compromises what could have led to this album being the death metal album of the month. Despite the recording shortcomings, the second half of this album was almost flawless. I for one, want to hear the next album by this band purely because I know that its going to be something amazing.

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