Right out of the gate, Scumpulse reveal themselves with zero pretense whatsoever. Blackened crust is the game, and Scumpulse have come strapped to deliver. Their upcoming full-length Rotten is a no-nonsense record that confidently states its intentions and then executes brilliantly on them.
“Alba Gu Bràth” kicks things off with nary a trace of the pageantry or pomp at times found in more extravagant black metal proceedings. There are no field recordings of thunderstorms, no samples of trickling water, no mood-setting fluffery whatsoever. As can be seen in the band’s black-and-white video for the song, Scumpulse are all about that business.
The band’s black-crust hybrid is an infectious model, as despite their ferocity, the songs on Rotten are all catchy to a fault. The individual building blocks of the music reek of anger — barking vocals, merciless guitars, pummeling drums — and themes of alcoholism, depression and the crushing nihilism of a day-in, day-out dead-end job characterize the lyrics. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to smile while headbanging along to the band’s propulsive tunes, especially when guitarist Magnus Tait flashes a rock-infused solo or lead.
Vocalist Ross Necro channels the urgency of the band’s crusty roots with his aggressive, snarling presence, and on the drums Andrew Rankine is a tireless war machine. Rankine’s D-beats are an energizing point of contrast under his bandmates’ blackened walls of trem. When he does switch to a blast beat, it feels monumental and impactful, though unfortunately, his cymbals seem to be suffering the ill effects of aggressive compression.
Hardcore elements worm their way in from time to time, notably in several of the album’s breakdowns, as well as in the band’s love for pregnant pauses in which Necro can shout, “Fuck!” Overall, hardcore’s presence is felt most directly in Scumpulse’s directness. Though all the songs are over four minutes in length, there’s never a moment in which it feels as though Scumpulse are drawing things out for the sake of filling time — there’s no dicking around with lengthy interludes, overtures or outros.
Despite having been released three years ago as a single, “Broken Reflection” is one of the album’s most potent songs. There’s a curious moment in the bridge, which sees Scumpulse employing a triplet-duplet polyrhythm for a truly disorienting and surprisingly progressive effect. Coming out of the straightforwardly blackened chorus, the guitars and bass switch to triplet chugs, while Rankine’s rolling kicks continue their tireless march in straight 16th notes. Only later do his feet get with the triplet program and bring the band back to a unified front — who then proceed to alternate back and forth between triplets and duplets as a unit.
This is not to say that the band’s newer songs are any less compelling. “Gnawned By Pigs” features an exceptionally vile breakdown as well as some of the album’s rare hardcore gang vocals, and check “King of Dogshit” for some punkier shouts. “Pure Jakebawlocaust” is a surefire circle pit trigger of a tune, one which also includes some unexpected atmospheric elements midway through.
Whereas the music of other “melting pot” bands can come across as Frankenstein-esque from trying to please too many audiences at once, Scumpulse deftly weave their influences into a charismatic and tightly polished vision. Even while abruptly shifting tempo or feel, which Scumpulse do often and with practiced skill, the music flows. Rotten is as fun as it is furious, as grin-inducing as it is grim, and within its blackened punk premise is plenty of depth and intrigue to discover.
Scumpulse will release Rotten with Gore House Productions on February 23rd. Pre-order the album now on Gore House’s Bandcamp.