Sceptic — Pathetic Being (2001)

30.12.2001  :: АрхивАрхив рецензий Автор: Chris Alfano

Those of you who read my review of 1999’s «Blind Existence» know that I was enamored by it. Everything was there: technical precision, strong musicianship, effective solos, and an emotive sense of melody that drew from such eclectic bands as Death, Cynic, and even the jazz-metal mewling of Atheist. With «Pathetic Being», Sceptic has (for the most part) remained within the aforementioned framework. There are flashes of progression here and there, but nothing especially groundbreaking. In fact, my primary gripes with this disc have a lot less to do with -what- they’ve done; it’s -how- they’ve done it. With that in mind, please note the following:

1) The Line Up: Sceptic’s line up is now down to 3/5 of the band that recorded their debut album. The most notable absence is that of drummer Kuba Kogut, although replacement Maciek Zieba proves his worth with a variety of complex rolls, fills, and four-armed cymbal workouts. Zieba’s technique is noticeably laced with the influence of Death/Control Denied/Burning Inside drummer Richard Christy, and such a comparison should be construed as a compliment. Additionally, guitarist Jacek Hiro has handed over his vocal duties to guest singer Michal Senajko, who is apparently covering for a new permanent singer named Michal Skotniczny. Are we confused yet? Senjako turns in a decent (though somewhat ill fitting) performance with his raspy howls and shouts, but I have to wonder if outside help was really necessary in the first place. Hiro proved to be a competent singer on «Blind Existence», and his aggro-snarls blended nicely with the band’s technical blitzkrieg. While Hiro’s desire to concentrate on his riffs and solos is certainly understandable, I feel that Sceptic’s identity is being compromised as a result.

2) Sound Density: A thick wall of distortion is usually considered a good thing, but producer Szymon Czech overdoes it in places. This is most obvious when the intricately «jabbing» bass lines of Pawel Kolasa become transparent under the guitars.

3) Fade-Outs: Several cuts (i.e. «Only Lies» and the title track) suffer from ridiculously abrupt fade-outs that seriously detract from the album’s momentum. It’s almost like Sceptic was happily jamming away when some idiot decided to end the songs a minute earlier than scheduled.

4) Progress: Any perceived differences between these songs and those on the debut (except for the specific performance issues I’ve noted) are mostly superficial. I’m not saying these songs aren’t good; on the contrary, I found all of «Pathetic Being»‘s ten tracks to be highly enjoyable, and more than worthy of repeated listening. Even so, I’m a little disappointed at Sceptic’s willingness to tread over the exact same territory for the second time in as many albums.

5) The Inevitable Cover Song: The eighth track on this disc is a cover of Nocturnus’ «Arctic Crypt». While the song itself is played with enough energy and conviction to get the nod of approval, its inclusion is wholly unnecessary. Perhaps recording pointless cover songs is part of some widespread contractual obligation, but the sheer volume of bands feeding off the past has reached ridiculous proportions. Whatever the case, I think it’s time for bands to quit «paying homage» and move on to another gimmick.

Perhaps it’s ironic for me to be wrapping this up on a positive note, but that’s precisely what I’m going to do. When all is said and done, Sceptic is still an excellent technical death metal band, and «Pathetic Being» is well worth the extra cash you’ll spend on import taxes. This one is available through both Relapse and Metal Disc. Go for it.

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