A Flourishing Scourge – A Flourishing Scourge (2017)

This debut album from Seattle based extreme prog metal act A Flourishing Scourge (Originally called Begotten, which I think would have sounded better than A Flourishing Scourge, as it feels like an album title) seems to have had quite a bit of money put into it. First of all, this disc was recorded at Gojira’s Silver Cord Studios in Brooklyn, then it was engineered and mixed by Jamie Uertz (Gojira, Anthrax) and mastered by Jens Bogren. It was released on the band’s own label, Begotten Records (they started a label before even releasing an LP?) on June 9th and The Grim Tower is hugely behind. Also, it features Decrepit Birth drummer Samus Paulicelli (all Metroid jokes aside) performing a session job. So, that probably totals up into the thousands for these guys. With all that work, let’s hope that it was worth it.

The final product is approximately an hour in length and features seven full-length songs in addition to an unnecessary instrumental synth piece called “Awakened” that takes from the performance and sounds like something you’d hear in a fantasy game. Obviously, A Flourishing Scourge is not that kind of album and this sounds completely out of place – I would have thrown it in the trash. The rest of the album seems to perform a delicate balancing act between progressive death, tinges of black metal and vast swathes of atmosphere. When I say vast, I mean vast – a few of the song introductions are nearly a minute or more of acoustic or synth-based atmosphere similar to “Awakened” but with less pomp. It often feels like the band are trying to channel classic Opeth, albeit with more modern influences. There are several instances where they manage this perfectly, with more than just a few killer leads and even some rather tasteful solos. I do feel that perhaps the black metal tremolos in opener “Tidal Waves” are a bit predicatable, as I tend to hear these nodes a bit more than I’d like and they often feel “black metal to be black metal” rather than actually utilizing the frosty nature of said genre. That isn’t to say that their compositional skills are lacking however, as you can tell that there was some major thought put into the disc. Axemen Tye Jones and Andrew Dennis both seem work their salt, even though I strangely find Jones’ vocals to be buried in the mix of guitar, bass and drum patterns, which I find to be a more present force in the performance. I’m almost thinking that this is intentional. There are some slight similarities to In Mourning here as well, which of course is a favorite act of mine – even though I still feel that the former is better. “To The Stench Of A Rotting Corpse” seems a bit raw once it finally starts up after a two-minute instrumental opening. The drums pound, with the vocals quite fierce and some interesting progressive nodes thrown into the death metal soup. Then for some odd reason, the band roll back into tremolos even though the atmosphere still doesn’t really equal out to black metal – I get it, I understand what they’re doing with this ghoulash. The amount of muscularity here is quite commendable, even when some riffs are thrown into the mix that just seem to be there. It’s far from perfect, but regardless of the amount of money spent here, this is still just a debut album. The band will evolve as they keep playing and hopefully to something with even more depth and variety than what they’ve shown here. “Insatiable” decides to bring us right into death metal, as it then goes topsy-turvy into all sorts of directions. I find some of these quite intriguing as A Flourishing Scourge often feel like more of an instrumental act.

I was reading a comment on a post regarding a band’s new single and the man mentioned that the musicians felt like they were saying “notice me!” on the piece. I retorted back, telling the man “of course they’re saying “notice me” as that’s the whole fucking point.” In a way, I feel that A Flourishing Scourge are doing just this with the album, which is certainly not a detriment. Certainly all of us want to be noticed, minus the apparent hipster of whom I debated with regarding this. I guess he wants bands to just sort of sit in the shadows and play calmly as not to bring up too much attention. Rolling back to the album, a real sort of “notice me” selection would be in that appetizing lead riff which seems to unexpectedly appear in “Insatiable” at about the three quarter mark of the piece. It’s kind of unfortunate that after the acoustic section that follows, the band never revisit this awesome lead. I definitely feel that this is a missed opportunity for them, because I would have definitely thrown back into that lead and like In Mourning‘s “Colossus” which builds a masterpiece on what is essentially one incredible lead melody, I would have had a solo in the background while the lead was playing in an attempt to really drive that down. Possibly even turning that lead into a solo variation, which ends the track with far more vibrancy than just a tired old acoustic. I’m not sure if it is Jones or Dennis that is responsible for that piece, but I guarantee that when they play this song live, if they throw back into that lead after a slightly shorter acoustic and find a way to incorporate a solo into that piece, the crowd will fucking cheer. It has that whole Game Of Thrones level of grandiosity, which would surely cement the band’s reputation.

“Onerous” seems to have the right idea in it’s romantic leads, but some of the playing still feels a bit off-key. I noticed that maybe a few of the notes weren’t quite hit properly, but it seems that they wanted to keep the slightly raw feeling despite all of the money thrown into this one. Go figure. In my opinion, that could have been a very powerful opener. In any case, this seems to be one of the few tracks where the vocals are actually audible and rather frightening, which I think is a good thing. The mid-section features a slew of healthy blasts, and thumps rather heavily. A potent guitar solo is used, but seems to feature an unfortunate cut-off. It doesn’t even really seem to end on a good note, just feels like it was clipped short somehow. “Vacant” does manage to come off a little better with a introductory solo that seems without error. It features another one shortly after, which is a bit bizarre as most solos occur during the bridge of a song. Regardless of that, this solo effort is much stronger and even seems to end at a much better point. The band throw back into acoustics and synths for a while, as the entire mood changes to that of death/doom for a few seconds. A neoclassically inspired solo effort then occurs, which later becomes a dual effort and highlights this piece for having the most shredding on one seven-minute song. “The Hedonist” shows what the band can do instrumentally, which also comes in at an unexpected eight minutes. It’s certainly not an issue for me, as it shows that these gentlemen can certainly play as I’ve cemented earlier. The disc ends with “Solace” where the balancing act between light acoustic and thunderous death metal is at its highest point. I didn’t really get as much out of this closer as some of the other pieces though, unfortunately.

While I did enjoy the album, I felt that several sections could have been performed much better and that the disc could use a bit more shine. There are some impressive leads and solo efforts, but in all of the darkening that occurs here, something is missing. It often feels like it wants to be heavier or more technical than it really needs to be, which doesn’t really help matters in the long run. I also noticed a few mistakes in the playing, which kind of stump me considering all of the work that has been put into this recording. I just don’t see why they couldn’t polish those up before release. But this is what I’m here for, this is me actually doing my job and inputting constructive criticism where I think that it is necessary. It’s why they send me these records in the first place. I’m actually rather torn on how to grade this, because I love some sections and loathe others. It’s definitely a solid release and tinges on being quite good, depending on the listener. If you take it at face value, you’ll probably enjoy it a bit more – but listening to this album as a musician and music critic, I can’t really say that I enjoyed it so much the second time around. Perhaps that just goes to show you the serious nature of this business and why I enjoy doing this kind of work to begin with. I would still recommend checking out the album, and chances are that you’ll enjoy it quite a bit more than what I did and call me an idiot or several other choice words because I don’t know what I’m talking about. Well, that’s part of your job as an independent listener as well. I disagree with critics all the time, personally. It’s one reason that I stopped subscribing to all of the major metal magazines with published reviews. I just became tired of cursing at people, more or less.

(8 Tracks, 59:00)

7/10

https://aflourishingscourge.bandcamp.com/album/a-flourishing-scourge

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