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Scáth Na Déithe - Virulent Providence review


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Band: Scáth Na Déithe
Album: Virulent Providence
Release date: February 2023

01. Virulent Providence Part 1
02. Virulent Providence Part 2

It’s curious to think that there was a time where black metal considered death metal to be a sworn enemy; all things considered, there’s far more that unites the two styles musically than divides them, as the existence of blackened death metal aptly demonstrates. Still, Virulent Providence is one of the more curious and unpredictable unions of the two styles.

Scáth Na Déithe (which translates to Shield Of The Gods) is a one-man project heralding from, if you couldn’t guess by the name alone, Ireland. Across what is now three albums, project mastermind Cathal Hughes has been exploring the depths of extreme metal, and predominantly black metal at that, with a generous catalogue of lengthy tracks. Virulent Providence pushes those song lengths further; this isn’t a one-song album, as “Virulent Providence Part 1” and “Virulent Providence Part 2” have a quiet moment separating them, but with both parts in the 20-minute region, this isn’t an easily accessible record. One would hope with such extended runtimes that these tracks would be quite explorative, and Virulent Providence lives up to those hopes.

On balance, this is still a black metal record above anything else, and the screams/blasts/tremolo combination in its opening moments makes no bones about that. What’s more, the (very) occasional use of keyboards and pipes might even leave one wondering whether Scáth Na Déithe will follow countrymen Primordial and Cruachan in exploring the realm of folk; however, these are false dawns. In some ways, it is fair to label Virulent Providence an atmospheric black album, but the atmosphere is not the standard fare for records under that moniker. The most natural comparator for this album is Schammasch, and specifically because of the ways in which both groups explore atmosphere.

Schammasch’s experimentations with dark tribal ambient on Triangle and The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite have been referenced by me on more than one occasion previously, but there is something about the way in which the Swiss group explored ominous atmosphere through sustained drones and black metal guitar on those records that was distinctly their own. Because of that, when one encounters another band using the same tones and evoking the same aura as The Maldoror Chants, particularly the more blackened songs towards the end of its tracklist, one has to assume that some degree of inspiration has been taken, and Virulent Providence fluctuates back and forth between these kinds of atmosphere and more intense black metal too many times during “Virulent Providence Part 1” for me to not make that assumption.

Still, The Maldoror Chants is a great record to resemble, and Virulent Providence is too diverse to be downgraded to a mere imitation. This is a bleakly atmospheric record, but its malevolence runs closer to the surface, an outburst of violence always within reach. This violence, as already alluded to, does predominantly take the form of more blackened styles of metal, but the sheer murkiness of several passages, particularly that which opens “Virulent Providence Part 2”, does feel more closely tethered to death metal, and about a third of the way through this second part, Scáth Na Déithe crosses the genre divide entirely with an onslaught of OSDM. To be honest, this detour does feel a bit out of place within the wider scope of the record, but a less blasty return to similar buzzsaw riffing later on in Part 2 does make a stronger impact, and it does serve as a nice exhibition of how similar yet distinct the sound of rapidly-strummed low-end riffing can be depending, on whether it’s death or black metal.

As the album progresses towards its climax, the more atmospheric moments of relief and/or suspense become briefer and fewer, the last one a mere few seconds of calm before the storm that is the record’s emphatic climactic closing passage, an overwhelming mesh of overlapping guitars. With this reduction in lulls, there could be the risk of having too much of a good thing, but Scáth Na Déithe impressively manages to progress things just enough during “Virulent Providence Part 2” for the sinister black metal atmospheres to never become wearying or overwhelming.

On the whole, Virulent Providence is a captivating experience, one that feels imposing but not quite suffocating. I’m not entirely convinced by the necessity or the benefits of the OSDM segue midway through part 2, nor am I sure that the somewhat cheesy tone of the keyboards really matches everything else that’s happening on this record, but overlooking those qualms, Scáth Na Déithe are onto something with this album. It represents a laudable maturation from the songs that I’ve heard from their earlier records, and I hope subsequent efforts will continue to explore the dark atmospheric tones that have been so successfully captured here.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 09.02.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 2   Visited by: 73 users
10.02.2023 - 00:53

Sounds very interesting. I'd check it thanks.
Giving my ears a rest from music.
11.02.2023 - 09:13
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Great artwork here, most interesting review from you for unknown and 2 song albums. Might be same discovery to me as Oak yesterdays album.
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