The 1990s were a magical time for death metal, and a strange one. The style bullied its way into the popular consciousness in the early part of the decade, making it look like it might actually be commercially viable for a hot minute. Big labels briefly toyed with investing big money in death metal bands like Morbid Angel. The ensuing gold rush led a whole generation of up-and-coming acts to experiment with blowing up death metal’s brutality into bigger, more ambitious, and more accessible proportions.
This atmosphere birthed Finland’s Scum, who released a pair of albums during the mid-’90s on the legendary Black Mark Production label — best known as the home of black metal founders Bathory — before petering out in 1996 due to lack of audience interest. Like their labelmates Edge Of Sanity and countrymen Amorphis, Scum made music that rumbled with Scandinavian death metal’s characteristic gritty buzz, but also stretched itself proglike, dabbling in 10-minute song structures, clean vocals, tear-jerking guitar harmonies, ponderous tempos, and extended keyboard interludes. It’s an odd approach compared to the slick and bouncy direction that death metal’s melodic wing has gone in since, and remains just as oddly resonant for its keening melodies and sweeping scope.
Before dissolving, Scum self-financed one final album called Garden Of Shadows, which ultimately went unreleased by Black Mark. After 20 years of lying fallow, this death metal time capsule is enjoying a proper day in the sun, and deservedly so. Scum may not have gained traction in their day, but their last effort is a gem — a ragged, glorious document of its peculiar moment, as vaulting and epic as it is gnarly. They really don’t make melodic death metal albums this fantastically scummy anymore, and album centerpiece “Trilogian Tales” really cranks up the soaring ’90s excesses to 11. Listen.
Garden Of Shadows will be out 12/2 via Blood Music.