Just as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia collapsed in 1992 those surviving the years of unrest and resentment could hardly sigh a breath of relief before the socialist republic of Serbia would form. The country was arguably in a more ‘free’ state at the time but there had been defiant extreme metal roots alive and well active in the country since the mid-80’s with groups like Mortuary, Bloodbath, Dead Joker and Necrophobia each releasing very small but well-remembered extreme metal tapes prior. 1992 would mark the conception of perhaps one of the most compelling, but short lived, death metal groups in the country’s history as Scaffold would form and quickly release one demo and a full-length, ‘The Other Side of Reality’ (1994), a few years later. Their style was entirely unique from the raw and powerfully violent thrashing death of their peers at the time, opting for a more technical death/thrash sound that’d often incorporate atmospheric keyboards and progressive thrash metal influence song structures. The band would fold that same year only to reform fourteen years later in 2008.
It’d be another seven years before they would release any new material but there was a lot of it when it would arrive: A live performance of the debut album, an EP of new material (‘Like the Devil at Church’) and another live album that appeared to be a repackaged collection would all release in 2015. That EP would be repackaged twice more in the years since both as a split with Karakondžula and an extended version of the titular EP. The band would then release a single ‘Years of Decadence’ in 2017 through Taurunum Records which featured an official version of the title track as well as a new song. This has now been repackaged in 2019 as a cassette album featuring the ‘Like the Devil at Church’ EP as well as a Bloodbath (Serbia) cover and a live track that’d been included on the 2015 live album. Got it?
So, why am I reviewing a set of songs that they’ve released about ten different ways since 2015? Chances are most people have either never heard of this band or had no idea they’d recorded any new material since 1994 and it goes without saying that everything they’ve ever recorded was damn good. ‘Years of Decadence’ gathers all of that material, sans the live albums, onto one professional tape and arranges the tracklist to feel like a strong death/thrash mini-album with a distinct semi-technical ‘classic’ death metal style. If you are familiar with Mortuary and Bloodbath (again, the Serbian ones) you’ll understand that calling them sublimely sloppy is an understatement and that’d be what makes Scaffold the easiest of the old Serbian death metal underground bands to take seriously. The ‘Like the Devil in Church’ EP is fantastic as it incorporates eastern European melodic ideas into semi-progressive death metal that feels appropriately ‘old school’ and still just a little bit imperfect like ‘The Other Side of Reality’ was back in the mid-90’s. The new tracks here “Years of Decadence” and “Die Aggression Wird Introjiziert” are the most exciting draw here and even if they were the only songs included I’d still recommend buying it just for their commanding presence.
There are wafts of Bolt Thrower, early Sadist, and classic Death all informing Scaffold‘s approach on “Years of Decadence” making it one of their most successful compositions to date, complete with a thrilling progressive metal guitar solo that summons change at the midpoint of the song. ‘Beneath the Remains’-era Sepultura gets thrown into the mix with a new version of “Die Aggression Wird Introjiziert” a standout track from ‘The Other Side of Reality’ with an exemplar use of keyboards that is nice signature moment for Scaffold. Ultimately this tape is what it is, a limited edition collection of everything the band have done since reforming and for that reason I would say it is a very valuable find for folks who are dedicated to the weirder spectrum of underground death metal. I’d highly recommend previewing the first few songs and grabbing a copy while they’re still around. The reissues of ‘The Other Side of Reality’ should be even more interesting to die-hard death metal collectors and oddity seekers.
One more drop of nightmare. 3.5/5.0
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