In the last 20 years, metal has attempted to transcend conventional approaches by blending its different sects, burrowing into seemingly opposite musical styles, or just flat out sexually assaulting other genres. The result has been even more metal sub-genres in a fairly successful effort to stay fresh. Scab Platter by newcomers Without Waves has slammed as much of this into 25 minutes as musically possible.
The opening track is under a minute, but the style of it had me thinking that it was an intro to a post-metal album ala Rosetta. Once I got to the more polyrhythmic section that came after the second song’s intro, Scab Platter had more of a Meshuggah feel, but if I had passed judgment at this point I’d still be wrong. What comes next is shredding and polished thrash similar to what I call “Headbanger’s Ball metal” (the Jamey Jasta years, not the Riki Racthman years), and by that I mean metalcore bands that are heavily influenced by Pantera, specifically, Lamb of God. Again, that’s still not what Without Waves is about. There’s also a lot of technical ability and dissonance that gives a nod to The Dillinger Escape Plan, or maybe a bit of Opeth because, even though these guys are from Chicago, their sound has that progressive European feel to it. The drumming is really tight and the speed of the double bass kicks is quite impressive. The transitions are some of the smoothest I’ve ever heard. When coming across a newer technical band it’s rare if there aren’t any hiccups or awkward moments when weaving through tempo changes, but Without Waves does it seamlessly.
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The abrasive vocals have some Phil Anselmo moments, but they’re more comparable to Randy Blythe’s screams. The melodic singing is a little harder to nail down as there are so many little nuances from a variety of metal singers. There are parallels to Greg Puciato at his raspiest, mellower parts could be likened to Tommy Rogers of Between the Buried and Me and some Mike Patton and Layne Staley moments as well.
By the time I got to the end I was thinking, “This album has everything (metallically speaking),” and it does, but that’s kind of the problem. Scab Platter sounds like it followed a “How To: Metal” formula. You could describe what every song on this release is and then put the word “obligatory” before each one (obligatory ambient filler, obligatory mellow track, etc.). There’s just nothing that memorable that separates Without Waves from every influence that makes a cameo on this record. The end of the album also suffers because the second ambient track leading into the more tranquil song “Dyhana” causes the record to lose steam only to completely flatten out during the final melodic instrumental song. A few clichés in the lyrics don’t really sit well, either, though there are a couple of poetic moments that I really liked. In reality, that’s being a little nit-picky because they’re a metal band and most people aren’t going to care about (or understand) the lyrics anyway.
Without Waves is like a weak drug. They have all of the substances of several metal genres, they just lack the individuality to convince someone to be addicted to their brand. Clearly, though, they have the talent and precision to generate a buzz, they just need to create something worth coming back to.