Scolopendra – Those Of The Catacombs Review

Italy has always taken to their own vision for horror. From the pioneering cinematic work of Riccardo Freda, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento to the interpretation of terror in the country’s heavy metal scene from the classic Death SS to the cult occult black metal of Mortuary Drape to the spooky, organ-rich doom of Abysmal Grief: there’s always a particular slant to fear that’s difficult to lay a precise finger on. It’s simultaneously campy and resonatingly genuine, inspiring terror not just its delivery but the very atmosphere it commands.

Release date: July 13th, 2020. Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions
Padua’s Scolopendra take a distinctly Italian twist on horror-centric death metal. That campy element found in the oft-highlighted American death bands that focus their sights on horror such as Impetigo or Mortician is certainly embraced, but with Scolopendra it’s a bit harder to determine how deeply into the cheek their tongues reside. Grotesque, gritty, and filthy while remaining in the thrashier roots of death metal, the band’s debut Those Of The Catacombs drives a rusty nail between the pure spirited souls of both horror and death.

Taking a more classical approach with a spinal column ripped out of the works of Nunslaughter, early Death, and especially Necrophagia, Those Of The Catacombs still has that whippier, energetic thrash feel of the salad days of death metal. This sounds like a pre-Morrisound, pre-Sunlight production that encapsulates that early gritty ‘n’ grimy death metal. Still, the band benefits from modern recording with every instrument sounding clear and distinct. There’s no hiding behind shoddy recording values, and Scolopendra sound like a well-oiled death machine.

Two factors highlight the appeal of the record. The first is the band’s commitment to keeping a gallop going. With so many bands focused on a dredging, knuckle-dragging approach, the churning lawnmower blades of riffs powered by a four-cycle engine of bass and drums splatter guts and gore across the soundscape with a distinct boost of energy. “First-Class Coffin” sinks its hooks in and whirls them around, twisting and pulling the flesh from bone. It’s not like Scolopendra are doing anything new—no technical flashery or progressive songwriting to be found on Those Of The Catacombs. But they deliver with energy and a seriously bone-crunching guitar tone. This music just begs for a live show beneath a haze of red stage lights, cheap alcohol, and the excessive use of fog machines with total disregard to local fire ordinances.

The second factor that really sells Scolopendra is the vocal approach. A gurgling, inhuman, almost reptilian voice vomits over the eerie synths coloring the bridge on “Tormenting Dying Nuns.” The atmosphere gets a bit black in that traditional Italian lineage of Death SS and Mortuary Drape with a lurking, discomforting build. The undead gang vocals crying out the title to “Zombie Feasting” just fits the imagery of a braindead, unliving horde howling wildly in hunger for braaaaaaains. It’s a wet, dripping gurgle with plenty of undead rasp—the auditory equivalent of seeing a bloody larynx pushing sanguine drenched air from the lungs of a breathing creature no longer amongst the living.

These two major factors, underneath some solid energetic riffery and a commitment to creating an evil, if somewhat campy (though never disingenuous) devotion to capturing that spirit of late-70’s / early 80’s horror creates a draw for those with an unquenchable thirst for B-horror death metal.  Further punctuated by the tasteful use of synths to mirror the soundtracks of the films being translated, Scolopendra craft an album with a direct-to-VHS atmosphere that just oozes with the sort of textures that diehard fans of specifically curated labels such as Horror Pain Gore Death and Razorback Records typically hold the monopoly on. Scolopendra hit the nail straight through the soft tissue of the eye and hold it there for just a little longer than feels comfortable, allowing the blood to flow just a little longer and a hair more sadistically than their peers—just like ol’ Lucio Fulci would have wanted.

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

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