Phil Anselmo is no stranger to black metal. He's been an uber fan for decades. While fronting his most well-known band, PANTERA, he was championing black metal bands by wearing their shirts and namedropping them in interviews and amid his onstage banter. He ventured into that dark art form on a deeper level with multiple projects including CHRIST INVERSION, EIBON and VIKING CROWN. SCOUR's 2016 debut EP marked his creative return to the style. He isn't the only notable musician within the unit's ranks, the band also features Adam Jarvis (PIG DESTROYER, MISERY INDEX), Chase Fraser (ANIMOSITY, DECREPIT BIRTH), John Jarvis (PIG DESTROYER, AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED) and Derek Engemann (CATTLE DECAPITATION). The extreme metal supergroup has returned with its second EP, "Red", a sonic dagger that's as lethal and memorable as it is brief.
SCOUR's rich grindcore pedigree unquestionably lends itself to the high-octane melodic black metal that's on display. And the "backing" musicianship is anything but in terms of the comfortable and balanced mix with which each component resides next to one another, contributing to the overall product. Where the debut EP showed promise, "Red" delivers as the quintet realize the potential that was obvious from the get-go. This can largely be attributed to the addition of Adam Jarvis whose jackhammer drum battery propels the relentless assault, as well as an improved performance from Anselmo himself. The new material isn't far removed from what came before stylistically—quite simply, it's just much better.
Like the debut release, "Red" is also a six-song EP. There's little room for error, and SCOUR moves in like a SWAT team, making it count with a concise delivery that drives with purpose each step of the way. There isn't much by way of diversity from song to song, aside from the slightly varied tempo and more noticeable transitions in "Barricade". But "Red" is brief enough to not sound redundant and for fans to want more. "Sentenced", the track prior to the final song, is a haunting and cinematic instrumental interlude, but it doesn't just serve to break up what would have otherwise sounded too monotonous. The track is evocative and interesting enough to avoid skipping unlike most metal interludes. It builds up toward the end before the final explosive song, "Shank", rounds out the EP.
"Red" is derivative of second-wave Scandinavian black metal. MARDUK comes to mind as a reference point, but this release isn't even remotely a clear-cut case of plagiarism. Whomever may come to mind, it's obvious that the quintet's execution is impressive. SCOUR's members bring their unique musical identities to the table without simply regurgitating the music that they are best known for. It's worth noting that the high energy, contemporary sounding take on a classic style translates extremely well in the live setting. SCOUR isn't reinventing the steel, but the quintet is wielding the blade with conviction.