Album: Blood and Fire
Genre: Extreme Gothic Metal
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: October 13, 2019
Album length: 39:36
Cursing The Altars of Molech
Sages and Sadducees
Blood And Fire
Dawn of Destruction
Short Summary: Scarlet Oath is an Extreme Gothic Metal band with Doom elements that draws heavily from the rawness of the early days of the genre while still attempting to forge a unique sound all their own. (source: Bandcamp (opens new window))
Who Should Listen? Fans of My Dying Bride, early Tristania, and Draconian
For calling themselves an “extreme gothic metal band,” Scarlet Oath’s Blood and Fire is surprising. Yes, there are gothic and doom elements present, but with many more elements present, this album is more like a metal opera leading the listener on a sonic journey.
This seven-track album has only four long vocal songs, but the three instrumental tracks add their own flavor to the album and break it up even more (in good ways). With intelligent, biblically sound lyrics and numerous scriptural references, Scarlet Oath stands solidly with the biblical prophets who voiced God’s judgment and announced His hope. Musically, with loads of variety and tones, there is never a dull moment traipsing through Blood and Fire.
Blood and Fire opens with gentle guitar picking and layers of synth behind it. As we venture into the second track, Conquered, we are given a taste of the backbone of this album: variation. Within the first minute of Conquered, we hear three different vocal stylings. As the song builds to its crushing end, vocals, music, and lyrics align to produce soaring emotions: “Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria.” Scarlet Oath is firing on all cylinders here!
But the soaring emotions are brought low with Cursing the Altars of Molech. The dark tone of the lyrics is matched with dark, soul-crushing musical tones of doom and woe. Essentially a song about child sacrifice, this track might also be seen as an anti-abortion song. This song itself, like the album as a whole, feels like a journey. Partway through the song the dark, chant-like tones give way to lighter guitars and vocals — a lullaby-esque moment — even breaking enough to allow us to hear the cries of the just-born who are being sacrificed to Molech. After hearing the cries of the innocent the listener is pummeled with fierce screams and guitars in a sprint to the midway point of the album.
The second half of the album opens with a foreboding instrumental, Ominous, before unleashing a southern metal flavored track Sages and Sadducees. The rollicking southern metal gives way to a more traditional chugging metal sound, but all through the track, we are treated to numerous vocal and musical stylings from simple strummed melodies to bone-crushing metal goodness. Like all of their tracks, Sages and Sadducees is a journey!
The close of this album sees yet more musical variation, with unrelenting guitar and blast beats and even some stoner metal riffs thrown in. Blood and Fire closes out with a strong prophetic message echoing John the Baptist asking who urged the people to flee from the wrath to come. The message is clear: Jesus’ blood was spilled for our redemption, and His return to bring judgment will produce fire. And all through the song, as with the whole album, we are treated to numerous vocal and musical stylings. The final instrumental track offers glimmers of doom-tinted hope in the lighter tones peeking through the somber guitar notes as if to say, after the darkness of destruction and judgment, there still is hope for those who remain faithful to God
With all of the variations in this album, you might think that it is a mishmash of sounds thrown together in an awkward attempt to be creative or reach a wider audience. But that is not the case! Though there are some awkward transitional moments, on balance, this album is cohesive and the varied tones and styles are well-thought-out and well-placed. As you read the lyrics while listening to the music a discerning listener will note that the tones and styles match the lyrical story. The pauses, the instrumentals, the interludes, the chants, the shouts, the screams, the myriad musical stylings all add their effect to the story being told: God’s wrath being poured out on disobedience and the redemption available through Jesus. When listened to with this in mind, Blood and Fire becomes an epic album.
The biggest downside to this album emerges in its second half. Track 5 is where we start to hear some vocal and musical asynchronicity, especially by the end of the song. The asynchronicity, where the vocals struggle to keep pace with the music, is especially apparent on the final vocal track (6 - Blood and Fire). This pacing issue is unfortunate because it detracts from the listening experience. I kept urging the vocals to go faster and keep up, especially when they became even more guttural and slower, seemingly disregarding the backing music. If it weren’t for this production flaw this album would become a classic.
Even as it is, though, it’s still a very good album, and I can’t say enough good things about 1) the lyrical depth and 2) the effectiveness of the musical and vocal variations.
One of my favorite things to do used to be to peel off the cellophane from a brand new CD and pop it into my player. Well, the cellophane part I disliked, though not as much as the gummy label across the top of the album, but I loved popping in a new CD and settling into a comfy chair to listen to the album straight through with liner notes in hand. This album reminded me of those days, because the album works as a whole. It’s cohesive. The music and the vocals match the lyrics. It tells a story both lyrically and musically. It offers words of warning and it offers hope. In short, I got lost in this album and lost track of time. In its 40 seemingly short minutes, I had a feeling of accomplishment after completing the album, not because I survived, but because I had gone on a journey through the darkness and into the light of Jesus’ glorious resurrection power. Jesus, the Blood and Fire, to the One who sits upon the throne forever and ever, amen!
Cursing the Altars of Molech: though each of the four lyrical songs is solid, this one is worth listening to repeatedly as a single.