Russian rockers Scarecrow go back to metal’s formative days on adventurous, swaggering ‘II’

Having been a child in the 1980s when I really started to warm up to heavier music, the landscape was much different than it is now. I’ll admit with zero guilt that there was a lot of glam metal that comprised my listening, and I ran the gamut before the heavier stuff took over. Also, since the 1970s weren’t that far behind, so it was easier to drink from the roots of Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc., just to make sure your education was well rounded.

The members of Russian doom rock band Scarecrow came up under very different circumstances than I, but their musical enrichment seemed to sway into similar waters as my own. The band’s new full-length “II” reminds me a lot of the ’80s metal bands that tried to worship at the altar of Zeppelin, but they add a darker edge, a heavier shadow no doubt brought on by their harrowing experiences living in the crime-ridden, poverty-stricken Russian city of Perm. That said, there also is a lightness, a sense of fun, and a push into folklore that the band—vocalist Artemis, guitarist Max, bassist Elijah, drummer Vadim—pour into these eight tracks. It has a massive retro vibe that’s blistering and swaggering, and the music full of confidence and spark that could have made them a pretty big deal in the era from which they found their inspiration. Not that they can’t now!

“The Endless Ocean Overture” kicks off the record, and it’s an over-the-top symphonic instrumental that made me think of Dimmu Borgir at their Disney best. That’s also the last time during this record I thought of that band as “Blizzard” takes us into totally different terrain. The classic metal vibe is heavy here and remains that way through the entire record, and Artemis’ ridiculous high-register vocals get their first chance to knock you on your ass. It’s an adventurous, bluesy trip we’re on as the playing shuffles, the singing rips, and the track has a huge finish that gets your heart pumping. “Magic Flower” starts in doomy rock waters as the harmonica playing sizzles, and then the guitars go off and thicken the stew. Steamy soloing coats your face with condensation as Artemis’ wordless wails, sounding very much inspired by Robert Plant, reach for the sky, and then the band hammers the nails as they take you on a fiery final excursion. “Spirit Seducer” again delivers on the piecing vocals and also brings punchy fun you can’t help but let infect you. The tempo is strong as the band hits the gas, the playing gets burlier, and the final moments bow to the intense blazing the track created.

“The Moors” is your classic old-style storyteller, an 8:11-long track that starts with acoustics and voices muttering, letting gothy winds blow through and establish the darkness. The vocals are a little breathier for a stretch while things slowly get thicker, and heaviness returns to the mix as your adrenaline starts to pump. Fluid soloing takes over, synth creates strange cloud covers, and the track ends in huge, dramatic fashion. “The Mushroom Wizard” is just blues-stuffed as fuck, a huge throwback vibe that feels mind altering and immersive. There is some strange warmth floating through this one, the guitars swing for the psychedelic fences, and you’re left trying to determine what is reality. “The Golden Times” basks in acoustics and hand drumming, yet another heavy nod to Zeppelin. The guitars jerk as the power kicks in, and then the pace chugs hard, the leads blaze, and the vocals kill, leaving you in a pile. “The Endless Ocean” is your closer, starting with waves crashing and an unsettling fog settling. The vocals reach for the heavens as the tempo explodes and mashes about as hard as it does anywhere else, the heat bubbles, and the leads scorch flesh. Eventually, we’re into a cold, calm section where sax enters and creates some soothing breezes, jazzy leads increase the intrigue, and the bass lathers, ending in thick sea foam.

We’ve never written about anything quite like Scarecrow’s “II,” though if this site was operating in the ’80s we’d be talking about releases like this all the time. This record is a really good time, something that I wasn’t sure I was super into the first few times I heard it, but it really grew on me, like gnawing on some of my own heavier music roots that got things going for me as a listener. The best way to enjoy this record is to enjoy some safe, legal mind-altering substances, let down your guard, and allow Scarecrow to take you on a journey we don’t get to take nearly as often in today’s metal landscape.

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