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Album Review: Scarefield – A Quiet Country

Scarefield is a horror-inflected thrash/speed metal collaboration by two musicians in two separate countries – Italy-based guitarist/producer Simone Manuli and Sweden-based vocalist Markus Kristofferson. The band’s debut full-length album, A Quiet Country, serves as a solid expansion to last year’s EP, Nightmare Tales, further exploring common ground between metal and mysticism.

Like the previous EP, “Ancient Evil” leads this album’s first side in a massive way. In an album context, its onslaught of melodic riffage, machine gun-laden percussion, and somber lyrical leanings somehow feel huger while set to the atmosphere of the album’s artwork. The speed increases alongside the riffs, and it suggests an image of the girl becoming increasingly terrified with fear as the ominous figures behind her continually inch their way toward her. “Dead Center,” the track to follow, is the first of the tracks exclusive to the album. Already, there is some range of their stylistic scope on clear display, making a seamless shift from UK-inspired power metal to American thrash. From a thematic standpoint, it centers on the frustrations of feeling held back by structure and routine, and the subsequent longing for something more out of life, all the while the inevitability of death looms large. I appreciated how the third track, “Altar of Fear” was based on the childhood anecdote from one of the members finding a haunted house of evil cultists on St. Lawrence Day, a day that otherwise signifies hope for positive change in the world. The way the band branches off thematically while remaining thematically consistent is admirable. As the album progresses, each subsequent song gradually implements a greater balance between the band’s clean and overdriven sides, and the choruses really come through with a nice pop element that offsets the heaviness, as exemplified on the album’s focal track, “Child of the Corn.”

Further on, “Primitive Shadows,” another track from Nightmare Tales, brings the album’s tension to an apex with its placement on the album’s latter half. The thematic focus covers not only the loss of sanity in a single person, but an entire civilization, with sheer brutality and speed at the forefront. At the same time, greater stylistic variety is present by this point. “Dream” is my favorite on this album. In contrast to the preceding tracks, it takes its time. It’s refreshingly slower, and the variance in singing register also works well with the harmonies. At this point, the band explores the innards of how a dream plays out, not only in the obvious sense of a person’s internal struggle, but a subtler angle involving a dream’s odd unpredictability. The remaining tracks from Nightmare Tales, “Shiver” and “Always” also feel welcome later in the album, with the transition from Pantera-inspired grooves to acoustic balladry providing a gradual – albeit temporary – lull. By the final track, aptly named “Goodbye”, the power and speed pick right back up again, bringing the album to a devastating close that signifies the world’s inevitable oblivion.

Overall, A Quiet Country is a competent display of Scarefield’s abilities in a full-length setting. There’s plenty in the way of presentation that the band excels at, through their implementation of a well-paced story and complementary cover art, and the four tracks from the previous EP are far from feeling tacked on. While the album is highly imaginative, undoubtedly skillful and creative, it would be interesting to see the band tap into more personal anecdotes for their songwriting.

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About Jake Kussmaul

I come from a family who is passionate about all things music. I learned to sing at an early age, and by 13, had my very own Fender Strat guitar. I tried my hardest at learning all that I could. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I had to teach myself an adaptive playing style. I learned to write and record my own music, despite these difficulties. In college, I started making great use of my writing abilities by reviewing music, as well as copy editing. I guess it's best to stick with what you know, while welcoming a fair challenge at the same time.

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