A Flourishing Scourge - Sickened Seed review
|A Flourishing Scourge
01. Blood On The Map
02. Unfurled Spines
03. In Miasmic Despair
04. Serial Eyes
05. Lines In The Sand
06. Beneath Umbral Skies
08. Stillborn Atrocity
Initially a four-piece, the three remaining members of A Flourishing Scourge have managed very well following the departure of their founding drummer. Still, it’s probably easier to flourish as an extreme prog metal band when you’re able to recruit the services of Hannes Grossmann as a session drummer.
Celebrating a decade since vocalist/guitarist Tye Jones formed the band with original drummer Josh Kiefer, A Flourishing Scourge have been gradual in their output since; an EP with all 4 members was released in 2015, but 2017’s self-titled full debut was followed by 6 years of silence before the recent arrival of sophomore effort Sickened Seed. Kit duties were handled by Decrepit Birth’s Samus Paulicelli on the debut album, but the group have aimed even higher this time around; not only did they manage to find space in Grossmann’s presumably overflowing calendar, but in Jens Bogren’s as well, as he handles mixing and mastering duties. With several guest string musicians also credited for the album, A Flourishing Scourge have brought a lot of talent together to make this album, and the end result is suitably impressive.
A Flourishing Scourge are a prog-death band; when they go all-out, the extremity is there, but while there’s no gargantuan songs over 10 minutes, they don’t skimp on the prog either. “Blood On The Map” eases listeners into the album, as the opening couple of minutes explore the band’s softer side; initial tribal percussion and Latin-flavoured acoustic guitar are soon joined by strings and woodwind, but ever so gradually, distortion, kit drums and growls are added into the equation, up until a full unleashing of the band’s extreme side around the 3-minute mark. It’s not an onslaught from this point to the end of the song, however, as the band display fluid, everchanging writing; contorted techy riffs swirl around the drums, before being replaced in favour of atmospheric soundscaping and clean singing, big chunky riffs, and a final acoustic denouement.
Given how it never fully unleashes, “Blood On The Map” serves as something of an elongated prelude, but the trio get right into it on next track “Unfurled Spines”, launching immediately into up-tempo techy death metal. Still, they don’t dwell on the extremity for too long, as the song’s midsection features an extended lull, one that is lit up by one of several captivating melodic solos across the album. Subsequent tracks such as “In Miasmic Despair” and “Beneath Umbral Skies” similarly offer extensive softer prog fare alongside the bursts of extremity, but incorporate blackened touches into the death-heavy passages.
A Flourishing Scourge aren’t entirely locked into the soft/extreme back-and-forths in all songs, as the album’s longest song, “Serial Eyes”, is also the most consistently extreme, abound with blasts, sharp tremolo riffs and malevolent brooding. Still, the prog isn’t abandoned; effects-laden vocals appear in The Faceless-influenced off-kilter sequences, and eerie sci-fi soundscapes are worked into brief lulls. Additionally, the lead guitar work continues to impress with memorable melodic solos, as well as melodeath-influenced guitar leads. Immediately following “Serial Eyes” is the album’s shortest and softest track, "Lines In The Sand", to provide contrast; the first half is dedicated to acoustic-tinged, almost ambient contemplation, although an Opethian second half offers a more seductively dark atmosphere instead.
There is still some further variety on the album to come, such as the blackened assaults and extended shredding soloing on “Woe”, and the doomy gloominess of closer “Stillborn Atrocity”. Variety isn’t an issue when it comes to Sickened Seed; if anything, the thing that may hold the album back is how it flows between those different sections. The latter stages of “Blood On The Map” are already a bit chaotic in how they jump between one another, and whiplash is encountered a few more times across the album’s runtime. While it never stops each individual passage from being enjoyable while it’s occurring, the unnatural flow does hamper the enduring appeal of these tracks just a bit, particularly as truly standout moments are infrequent.
In yet another great year for extreme prog metal, Sickened Seed is another strong addition to the pile. It perhaps is at risk of being overshadowed by the best of this year’s offerings, but for those with a similar affinity to the genre as myself, A Flourishing Scourge are well worth checking out.
|Written on 22.11.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not
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