The Scaramanga Six - ‘Chronica’ (Wrath Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Martin Haslam   
Monday, 04 December 2017 04:20

Scaramanga Six artworkTwo years on from ‘The Terrifying Dream’, my then Album Of The Year, The Scaramanga Six return with ‘Chronica’. A double album in four movements, can it possibly meet their own high expectations?

 

‘Somehow’ is a relatively straightforward start, rattling along, almost optimistic, from the view of a survivor of a dystopian future. Yes, there is a theme, prog fans! A stark landscape, where survival against constant drudgery and oppression is the only victory. ‘As We Take The Stage’ features the infamous ‘Running Up That Hill’ drum pattern, in the band’s own words. And Gareth Champion’s drums are in some ways the heart of this album, firstly driving the pace onwards, then adding sinister atmospherics as only The Scaramangas can do. Welcome to their world.

 

‘The Caretaker’ has darker tones, courtesy of Steven Morricone’s vocals, but is hauntingly beautiful. Brother Paul takes over for ‘Man Or Marionette’, very much in the rich vein of self-styled ‘evil pop’ they excel at. The four-part vocal harmonies continue to lift the songs throughout, with guitarist Julia Arnez’s voice adding just the right texture.

 

The second movement starts with ‘Owned’, almost a textbook Scaramangas lesson in how to build creeping tension, before the second half of the song kicks off. ‘Bark Or Bite’ is as frantic as a rabid dog, while ‘What’s The Time, Mr Wolf?’ marries a glam verse to a Cardiacs infused middle eight (I’m not technical, so apologies!), there are even hints of early Ants in there. This would cause lesser bands a serious headache, but we’re in safe hands here. Epic stuff.

 

Those amazing drums are the backbone of ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’. I’d love to hear the band score for film; this really is gorgeous. ‘This Is Chronica’ ends disc one in a woozy, disoriented fashion, which seems fitting…

 

Disc two, and ‘Flying Bastards’ is an instrumental which has that Cardiacs epicness with Roxy Music falling down the stairs, and segues into ‘Fight Or Flight’. Pledgers will be familiar with ‘Dirty Subaru’, with its oddly catchy chorus. Those harmonies! I can see this taking off live. Single, ‘Stabby Fork’ has Steven, evil eyebrow arched, pounding the keyboards before we are wrong-footed into a shiny singalong part, complete with hand claps. ‘The Apartment’ is like a voiceover for ‘Inside No. 9’, while ‘Cheap Guitar’ is all understated piano and trumpet. ‘A Cold One At The Wits’ End’ sounds like, well, The Scaramanga Six; Steven whispers a bleak description of his surroundings, ominous and looming.

 

 

‘Splendour’s Faded Homeless’ takes the Cardiacs anthem as a backbone to suit their own tribute. Mr Smith, may your influence continue to shine. ‘Human Oddity’ has Paul describing a man to be avoided, though all is unclear. The overall sense of ‘trust no one’, remains. ‘The Creeps’ could be from a Dario Argento film, disturbing and chilling, with sleazy sax. ‘My Pet Hate’ brings the guitars back, and Steven’s bass is the menacing presence that we come to expect. The ‘pet’ is hardly cuddly…

 

And so, ‘Soaring’ brings this epic, yes, EPIC, album to a fitting close. Did you really think they couldn’t pull it off? The Scaramangas have high standards. Like ‘Be Nothing’ from its predecessor, Paul ends this record on a note of weary optimism. Or so it feels to me; “I’m coming for you, I’m soaring into the sky”. For all their dark artistry, The Scaramanga Six have optimism at their core. Bewitching, bleak and beautiful as only they can be.

 

‘Chronica’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.

 

The Scaramanga Six support Tim Smith’s Spratley Japs at The Parish, Huddersfield on Thursday 14 December.

 

www.facebook.com/thescaramangasix/

 

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