The difficulty with modern bands playing in a style that is rooted in the ’70s metal revolution is that so much has happened since then that it’s easy to produce music that sounds all too familiar and unoriginal. It’s a tricky thing to overcome, and often requires an exceptional ability to write solid hooks that make you ignore the fact that you might have heard this all before. While Scarecrow do add some additional symphonic proggy flavour to their ’70s metal sound, it is the way they combine their multitude of sonic influences into engaging song-writing that makes their sophomore effort Scarecrow II such a joy.
Part of a new wave of Russian doom metal bands, Scarecrow have been producing their doom laden style of proggy metal since 2019. They’ve been quite prolific since their formation, having released two EPs either side of their debut album, but remarkably that profligacy hasn’t watered down their creativity. Scarecrow II is diverse in the way the best ’70s prog rock could be, but the foundation still lies firmly in traditional doom.
Perhaps it’s their indelible movement towards proggy atmospheres, or perhaps it’s lead singer Artemis‘ Robert-Plant-meets-Cedric-Bixler-Zavala vocals, but Scarecrow feel more authentically ’70s than the ’80s doom revivalists like Trouble, Saint Vitus and Candlemass. Where those bands took a specific sound and brought it back to life in their own refreshing way, Scarecrow are pulling from a vast array of sound combinations and putting their own organic spin on them.
It wears it’s ’70s prog rock influences on its sleeve, while blending them with traditional doom in a way that feels natural and authentic…
There are several tracks which really hit that early Sabbath vibe, with The Mushroom Wizard, perhaps unsurprisingly given its title, being the best example. It’s classic doom riffing is excellent, the hooks are simply sublime, and the duelling guitar/lute solo is brilliantly bizarre. Magic Flower and The Endless Ocean are full of formidable doom riffs that pulsate with dread, while beyond its classical acoustic guitar opening, The Moors really shows off the power of the slow riff. The acoustic stuff isn’t a one off either, as the band fully embrace the gentler tones on The Golden Times, a track which warps itself into a funky folk-rock curveball that feels like a time-honoured prog rock tradition.
The proggy bombast really comes to life in the likes of Blizzard, Spirit Seducer, and the epic finale The Endless Ocean. With atmospheric jazz breakdowns, triumphant orchestral flourishes, and superb instrumental virtuosity, the band manage to provide impressive and exciting compositions without ever losing themselves in annoying self-indulgence. Those symphonic elements are quite unique, and definitely separate Scarecrow from a number of other modern proggy doom bands. The completely orchestral opening track The Endless Ocean Overture immediately brings this to the fore, though it is perhaps a little longer than necessary for an introduction.
Scarecrow II is an outstanding record that is full of thrills that draw you back in, no matter how many times you hear them. It wears its ’70s prog rock influences on its sleeve while blending them with traditional doom in a way that feels natural and authentic. Where some bands who try to tap into ’70s metal can often get lost, Scarecrow are undoubtedly in control of their journey. Throughout the twists and turns of this record, there is clear song-writing and a compositional focus that makes Scarecrow II a fabulous listening adventure.
Scribed by: Will J