You know what I miss? Rating systems. When I first started writing here there was a rating system, and most other review sites had rating systems. For us it was 666. I can’t remember what the sixes stood for. Like, Songwriting, Production, and Performance or something. It wasn’t a perfect system, obviously, but it was a system.
I don’t remember why we got rid of it, either. I am sure there were some good reasons, and I am sure I went along with them. So why do I miss the system? Because it was easy to tell the reader what we thought without having to actually tell them what we thought? No.
OK, fine, so what? The thing the number system did was force me to consider the experience AS a comparison to other records. I had to assemble my thoughts before I started writing. If I was to give a record a 5 in songwriting I had to justify that 5 against all the other 5’s I had given – and against the 6’s and 4’s. If I didn’t, some reader sure as shit would.
The number system was an imposed discipline, in other words, and that is something I appreciate now that I have none. Especially when I am reviewing a record like Scorn Aesthetics. This record is a good listen, full of heaviness and blackness in equal measure, produced just roughly enough to compliment both sides. I enjoy it.
But how does it actually compare to other death/black records? It is a 435. The songwriting is good, but not galaxy altering. The production is exactly what you expect. The performances are instinctive and exciting.
Now to justify it.
The songs range from average to lengthy, and are constructed on well-worn blackened death tropes. Occasionally atmospheric, occasionally pummeling. Rock, blast and galloping beats; tremolo picking, strumming and occasional riffs; scratchy, roary vocals–everything you very literally expect. But they are catchy and powerful, for all that. They are slightly above average. A 4.
The production is essentially exactly average, which is to say you can hear everything, including, happily, the scraggly, distorted bass. The mix is good, but not amazing – although, if the aim of a good mix is to present all the elements of a band is proportion to each other, perhaps this mix is perfect. Maybe a mix that actually enhances the band’s sound does the band a disservice.
Here we see one of the reasons the number rating system had to go. What constitutes a “perfect” mix?
I am calling it average, though. So a 3.
Ah, but the performances! If this record rises above the herd it’s because the band are tight, unified, and their performances build upon each other like blood soaked bricks. Bricks, plain as they are, can be used to create some pretty impressive architecture, and Embrace of Thorns are master masons. With several records under their belt, you should expect no less, but it remains a pleasure to hear a band remain this wild AND this tight – a consequence of experience. Hence the 5.
Standout tracks don’t really exist. The album is evenly paced and equal care is given to each song. So the rating of 435 leads to an overall score of about 4/6. If you love blackened death this will satisfy you. If you don’t this won’t change your mind. Good songs, standard production and great performances make this a decent addition to your collection, specific attitudes notwithstanding.