Gnaw Bone – Scorched Earth

2 out of 5

Label: Auris Apothecary

Produced by: Gnaw Bone (recorded by)

Gnaw Bone’s debut was an acceptable piece of hardcore thrash, though I took issue with how the group seemed to pursue an aesthetic – super lo-fi; macho growly lyrics – over content, limiting the impact of what could’ve been much more than ‘acceptable.’ Unfortunately for my preferences, the group seems to have doubled down on those aspects on their followup Scorched Earth, again recording live and getting mastered by James Plotkin, but the tracks are extra-muddled this time, almost all death- and thrash-metal, with poorer fidelity and consistency. I accept that rawness, reverb, and, like, single tracks are somewhat staples of death-metal, and I can appreciate that when it enhances the spookiness and effectiveness of what I’m hearing, but there’s some dissonance here that doesn’t make that work. Like, the recording levels cut out the low-end so excessively that the players don’t sound like they’re keeping anything close to time, and the addition of a third band member (and some overdubs) have seemed to encourage cluttering up tracks with different style of screaming and bridges that aren’t bridging much of anything. This frustrates when things align and the group lays down some more straight-forward attacks – tracks Crown Lust and Fallen Rulers are just clear enough to pick out the percussion and follow along to the riffs – but that gets us back to “acceptable,” before the “let’s shout doomy sounding things” growls are lost amidst the poor-recorded mesh of guitar and drums.

But hey, a “bone-infused” record. I mean, again, aesthetic came first, and that comes across in the packaging, for sure, but there are some legit songs here being stymied by that.