posted on 8/2006 By:
There was a story on public radio not too long ago about an unfortunate pet python that, after polishing off his monthly rabbit, for some unknown reason, proceeded to consume the blanket that was in his aquarium. The whole queen size blanket, in one sitting (is there another way to eat a blanket?). They said it must have taken the dumb beast about six hours to polish off the bedding, which was later removed via surgery. That snake and his deed remind me of Scald’s Vermiculatus in a couple of ways—first, the band seems to be fixated on worms (often metaphorically) and their vermiculate movements, and more importantly, consuming Vermiculatus is a surprisingly substantial undertaking. This album is easy to enjoy from spin one, but actually absorbing it so that all the pieces fall into place and become familiar requires time and patience. In other words, the first bite comes easy—the rest, you have to work at.
I was first exposed to Northern Ireland's Scald through their debut album, a pitch black, acerbic mindfuck called Headworm. It too was a so-called challenging album, but cut from a different cloth. For Vermiculatus, the band dropped the vocals altogether and added a full time keyboardist, and has joined the likes of Edge of Sanity, Green Carnation, Sleep, Meshuggah, and Fantomas by crafting an album consisting of only a single track. Interestingly, during its forty-seven minute duration the song moves through several variations of its theme without relying on repeating passages. Think of it as the anti-Dopesmoker. This tactic gives the album an abstract and more loosely structured feel, but the material seldom seems to wander. Vermiculatus is made up of two halves. The first, described as progressive post-grind, uses both clean and heavy riffing patterns that utilize plenty of breathing room between bursts, creating a spacey atmosphere skillfully furthered by keyboard effect accompaniment. The band builds and maintains tension by providing a nice variety of tempo and texture, and comparisons to Voivod come to mind a few times during the first half of the album.
The second half of Vermiculatus consists of an ambient reconstruction and development of its first movement. Now, ambient can often be a take it or leave it kind of thing, but in this case, the material is both well executed and compliments well its heavier predecessor. Vermiculatus is surprisingly engrossing for an album of this type, and doesn’t ever feel like it runs out of steam, although admittedly, the first half is more compelling than the second. The album is solemn and foreboding, while also remaining thoughtful and artistic. Like Fantomas on Delirium Cordia, Scald also seems to be doing some instrumental abstract storytelling on this album, which appears to revolve around the life cycle and foreign parasites as a metaphor for mental disorder. The album’s theme is furthered on the brief Quicktime video titled “Vermiculatus B1”, a black and white computer animation piece that, unless it forces you into an epileptic fit, provides some cool and disturbing visuals that elaborate on the album’s theme. The video is the work of drummer Paul McCarroll, who’s also responsible for the outstanding artwork on the foldout packaging. Scald has succeeded in creating an album as intriguing and original as anything you’ll hear all year. It’s no wonder the band landed on Code666, a label that regularly offers up tantalizing specialties of the eclectic and bizarre.
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