For me this album was an absolute surprise for several reasons: the first of which being a death metal record released by Shadow Kingdom? Of course there’s plenty of doom influence present on the album, especially the iconic lead guitar tones of Altar of Oblivion’s axeman Martin Mendelssohn, but even still it’s an unusual style for the SKR roster to boast; the second being a cohesive and obliterating band comprised of 2 members of AoO creating something different and yet just as strong a contender in the metal arena, without AoO being left in ashes or being comprised solely of leftover AoO material; and third, much like in AoO these guys still maintain a certain way of crafting a new sound that is neither contrived nor forced into a certain direction, but is undoubtedly death metal as both classic and forward-thinking. And if SKR will continue to venture here and there into the death metal style all the while Dark Descent, Pulverisied, FDA Rekotz,etc. remain content to release solid, albeit increasingly generic at times, retro/revival Swedish/Finnish death metal styles then maybe, just maybe, we can get some death metal records from fresh blooded bands that will shock the hair off our hides just like the classics did when we first heard them. But for now I’m just content with this double EP that blends the epic and distinct melodic signature of Altar of Oblivion with touches of death metal and even black metal into something dark, moody, forbidding, and heavy.
With that said, we all know that the adjective “heavy” is obviously crucial to the metal realm and is therefore a key player in the metal vernacular but it also comes with some ambiguities as to it’s true meaning when not given any context as it’s not clear enough to just say that something is “heavy” because it’s simply down tuning and droning us all into an opiated zombie state. That is not an absolute qualification for heavy, but to some it might be what comes to mind, so out of honor and respect of the quality of this album and to actually put into context what I mean when I say “heavy” here let me do so by comparing it to my two day (so far, but still counting with no relief in sight) long severe migraine spell. Everything on this album from the rhythm guitars and Martin’s buzzing doom tinged melodic leads right down to the percussion comes at me as pounding blunt thrusts of pressure into my temples causing my brain to swell. Sometimes these thrusts come in waves of slow and exacting thuds as felt on the lengthy closer ,“Carving a Labyrinth of Despair”, which consists of direct blows of steady rhythmic pulses spread across a 13-minute span but with some lacing of the melodic lead tones with an exotic, almost middle-eastern hue in the beginning stretch it’s easy to be disillusioned into thinking the lair into which you are forced to tread is less treacherous. Other times the band delivers a blend of blasting Swedish death metal rhythms with funeral doom heavy weighted tones that strike like a wrecking ball to the back of the head such as felt on the opener ,“Pale Dawn Rising” , and on the inebriating bruiser anthem, “The Poisoned Chalice” , a song that even rivals classic Incantation for blasphemic Hellfire atmospheres of despair and suffocatingly thick air that actually compresses the chest from the pressure until the lungs collapse. So for the most part Scouring the Wreckage of Time will continually challenge your ability to see and think clearly leaving you thrown about in a spiraling freefall, fatal impact slam, crawl through mollasses, get stomped on by tens of thousands of centurions, cycle with some of these experiences lasting a bit longer on one song than another and unlike my skullsplitter as I’m writing this squinting as my neck feels like it’s holding up a chips anchor rather than my 12lb (?) head, there’s no premonition or “aura” like the lovely visual trails that make me dizzy to signal the switch from one sector of this monolith of heaviness to another, you just literally put it on and let it take you to whatever abysmal macabre domain it desires.
Honestly, I knew this album/project was in the making as Martin had dropped hints to me about it for some time, but I never expected it to be this developed and as powerful or even as distinct as Altar of Oblivion, but I was obviously very wrong in that walking that particular line of thought. It’s also a very cohesive full-length, enough to the point that if I hadn’t been told so I’d have nave never believed that this was a combination of two EPs and now with that said I will end with saying that, “This album is hopefully the predication upon which yet another stellar metal band from the minds and skillful hands that built AoO will emerge.”