To have been revered as such a great and accomplished painter from an era (4th Century BCE) where documentation and existing ancient works were eventually destroyed in the name of Roman idolatry and/or Pompeian volcanic catastrophe, Apelles of Kos must have been an unshakable sort of talent. That Pliny the Elder would immortalize him as the greatest painter to ever exist in his Naturalis Historia, Apelles’ realism greatly impressed the scholar who had spent his twilight years observing and chronicling Greek art and natural history remaining in the age of Nero. The deeply rich black tones of these highly detailed paintings and ornate mosaics were credit to Apelles’ ingenuity, and perhaps wretchedly opulent surroundings, as the atramentum elephantinum used was created through a process of making charcoal from incinerated ivory tusks. Liquid forms of carbon-oxide used in ancient art across the globe almost always employed the use of scorched and pulverized bones (bone char) be it the ‘India ink’ of Eastern China or Apelle‘s extravagant use of elephant ivory. There is some measure of charred death within the darkest black tones of most ancient, and some modern, art including the ruthless savagery offered by Oakland, California death blackened d-beaters Atrament.
To catch the morose crust punk run-off from their overflowing Abstracter collaboration James Meyer (Vale, ex-Moral Void) and Mattia Alagna would align with Necrot/Mortuous drummer Chad Gailey and bassist Sam Carr-Pringle to form Atrament in 2014. Despite fairly universal praise and accolades for their debut full-length back in 2016 ‘Eternal Downfall’ didn’t warrant a ton of personal listens beyond release. Fairly standard blackened crust tones and a droning mid-pace left my interest flat-lining quickly as the high from nearby Bombs of Hades and Black Breath albums still felt comparatively fresh and superior. ‘Scum Sect’ shows growth in terms of fidelity and performance equal to the comparative conceptual sharpening of Abstracter in tandem. Atrament have seemingly focused on deeper atmosphere with a mix of black/death metal aesthetics driving greater variety into their steadfast d-beat style.
The dudes haven’t gone full-bore neocrust or whatever, nor have they recreated ‘Realms of Chaos’, and the pace remains largely ‘mid’ so the major differentiation on ‘Scum Sect’ comes with execution rather than stylistic differences. “War Seed” is the most immediately viable example of the difference in vocal expression and general atmosphere, sounding like a mid-90’s death/doom band covering Martyrdöd. Alagna‘s bellowing growls and gravel-shredded hissing becomes a huge point of interest for me as the almost sleepily paced bulk of the album drones beneath his diatribes. The album ends up being a sort of opposing force to Moral Void‘s bombastic, but vocally subdued ‘Deprive’ from last year; Yet I’d still temper expectations for the black/death metal influences which are less like Acephalix‘ monumental ‘Decerebration’ and look to extreme metal primarily for atmosphere and aesthetic value.
As with any true D-beat album, you’re getting a damn d-beat in every song no matter how long they manage to delay it. This could be a point of detraction for folks expecting the sort of variation that is standard in the extreme metal projects that these musicians come from; I don’t personally have a problem with hardcore punk’s traditional rhythms and to be fair Gailey switches it up enough in every song. I appreciate the properly recorded drum performance, and all should be thankful that the weird clunk from that last Mammoth Grinder album hasn’t caught on elsewhere. ‘Scum Sect’ is a good spin or three but it does little outside of the box beyond Alagna‘s inspired vocals and the energy feels kinda low in general. That said, there are a few standouts: I’d recommend starting with “Boiling Point” for the midway break into atmospheric death metal, “This Night Shall See No End” just because I love the riff progression, and again “War Seed” for the proof of concept that it is. Recommended for the adventurous hardcore/crust folks and less so for the death metal heads.
Mutilation in full motion. 3.5/5.0
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