The past two years have seen a new beginning for Frazetta-core. You know- the hyper-masculine breed of true metal which often borrows lyrical themes from the Conan, Dungeons & Dragons, and Lovecraft universes. The type of music that can only be sincerely represented in album art by work from the likes of the iconic, late, great Frank Frazetta. Bands (typically) from the US have taken a strange and sudden interest in the lore of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, HP Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock, and personally- I’m here for it completely.
Of course, true metal bands with eldritch themes are nothing new, and can even be traced back to Black Sabbath themselves on their first record, but I’ll deviate into this completely another time. The genre is, however, experiencing a very heavy, particular, and peculiar resurgence. And while many of these bands take a cleaner, more epic approach to their soaring sound, like Brazil’s Krull, Pennsylvania’s Legendry, and rising Texan legends Eternal Champion, a few other bands have descended into an evil sound, taking hints more from Venom than Maiden, more from the underworld than from Valhalla. Among these bands is Deerfield Beach, Florida (according to Bandcamp)’s newest blackened thrash outfit, Charred.
Charred are a strangely clandestine band, at least at the moment. Their Bandcamp page lists no members, and Facebook and Twitter searches yield no outlet for the group either. They seem to exist only through Bandcamp at the moment. I came into contact with their April Demo/EP The Sword that Splits the Skull through a local promoter friend, and my only guess is that he came into contact through hearing it from a friend, who heard it from a friend. However, one can only expect that after two small, decently produced releases in two months (they released two more tracks in June that weren’t included in the EP) more will become of this band. Only time will tell, however, as I’ve had ideas for a black metal project with absolutely no purposeful online exposure for fun.
The Sword that Splits the Skull breaks loose with “Purveyor of Death”, a particularly gloomy, fun, and riffy track that broadcasts the evil behind Charred, with an opening that’s sure to induce barbaric mosh frenzy when executed in the right setting. The song is a great way to introduce the band with classical black metal vocals, and classy changes from riff to riff, including a hopeful “UAGH!” before the closing riff. Next we have “Bound to Darkness”, with a darker, more hopeless (the lyrics detail the mindset and “life” of an unfortunate soldier who has lost his soul to the forces of darkness), and Neanderthalic opening and refrain, which shares the track with a breakneck passage of speed. This track also ends with a “UAGH!” which is nice.
The third track on the release is the title track, and is also the longest, clocking in at two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. It’s got the most substance on the album to me, in terms of boldness in drums and guitars. It also seems to carry more energy on the vocalist’s behalf, but that might just be me. It’s got an interesting dynamic in musical change-ups, which can place you on a dust-clouded battlefield, cleaving heads in two with a long-handled broadaxe in one moment, only to be thrown from your steed and assaulted and enveloped by an angry formless spawn that blots out the sun in the next. It also features a respectable, well-audible guitar solo that would leave virgin fingers blistered. The release closes with “Void Gaze”, the shortest track (1:07), and the most punk-ish in riff. The same memorable riff basically persists through the entire song, which makes it the most influential track on the album on the mortal mind. It’s enjoyable and catchy for sure, and also closes with a solo, albeit slightly less significant than the shredding on “The Sword that Splits the Skull”.
The Sword that Splits the Skull is a very respectable and fairly promising debut effort. If Charred continue at the rate they’re moving, I wouldn’t be surprised to see their name on some of the better underground death marches across America that you call tours in the next year or so.