Review: ScalpelCentury in the Boilpit

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Something bizarre is boiling in Boston.

All the way back in 2017, still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I wrote a TTT blurb for Scalpel‘s last record, Methods to Delusion. Younger Me noted that their style of death metal was “almost too tech.” Older Me would like to rectify this to “just tech enough,” finding that it’s probably this influence that allows the record to take as many intriguing twists and turns as it does. Indeed, Younger Me himself (myself? Surely not) lauded the shift “between ‘over-the-top’ and ‘jam’ mode” that was evident in a preview track, and while Older Me couldn’t tell you exactly what either of those are supposed to be, he (I? Maybe) still like(s) how the album can pivot from blasting fury to slamming, bouncy grooves, never sticking with either quite long enough to leave you entirely sure of what’s going on. This pinballing between tech death, grind, and brutal death not only keeps the album entertaining, but also stays true to the band’s mission statement of creating “brutal dirges, devoid of genre restriction.”

As good as Methods to Delusion still is, most of the interest I have in it today comes from viewing it as a fossil record for Scalpel’s latest sonic evolution that is found on Century in the Boilpit. With no significant change in the band’s lineup, several aspects of the sound are carried over, but five years have warped them into evil twin versions of themselves. The shifts between styles and tempos are still present, but the songs now zig-zag in patterns resembling broken limbs jutting off at disconcerting angles. Riffs and rhythms often only stick around for a measure or two, barely getting fully sketched out before being torn away violently as the band turn their attention to the next section. While that loser Younger Me would have found this approach to songwriting overwhelming, the chad Older Me concedes that it absolutely should be, but cannot help feeling fascinated by the death metal equivalent of a heap of scrap metal with so many jagged edges that just looking at it makes you wince.

Contributing to this impression in no small part are the often extensive guitar solos. This was likewise already a staple on Methods, but following the general trend of unhinging, solos can now burst forth from nowhere at any moment. Their prominence in the mix and their own shifts from methodical and pleasant melodicism to insane, dissonant noodling is another element that should sound like ass, but ends up fitting the chaotic nature of the music perfectly. Aside from the solos, weird moments like the intros to “The Insect Philospher” and “The Woodsman Part III” further make me wonder if these are ramshackle compositions thrown together at random or if there is a method to the madness that is just slightly beyond my comprehension. Given how oddly enamored I am with the end result, it must be the latter.

An aspect that, at least on paper, has not changed is the dual vocal approach. Apparently both guitarists already shared vocal duties on the predecessor, but there must have been a switch in styles here, as well, because I’m pretty sure I would remember this semi-clean scream that can sound a bit like a young Eric Adams at his angriest. It rarely stands alone, instead following the main vocalist’s guttural growl like a shadow and lending it a clearer edge. A spray of fresh blood on the scrap heap, if you will; a most welcome addition of a bit of color. Similarly unchanged-but-actually-changed is the technical prowess of drummer Chip Fay. His whirlwind speed is a perfect foundation for the sound, although some may find it a pity that he seems to have fallen on hard times and had to steal his new snare drum from a marching band. I do find that the resulting effect is the band sounding a bit like a cartoon character with a huge bulking torso running around on tiny legs, but that just adds to the magnificent absurdity that is this record.

I’ve fallen for Century in the Boilpit quite hard in the short time since it came out, so much so that I lament not being able to give it a spot on this year’s list. Clearly, Scalpel care naught for the frivolous circus that is the blogosphere in December, and rightly so. Do your own thing when and how you want to.

4 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets

Century in the Boilpit came out on December 21st. Get it now on Bandcamp, keep up with the band on Facebook, or, better yet, behold their utterly cooked website.

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