Portland, Oregon might be known as the City of Roses, but the music of Scard’s J. Huston suggests it might also be a portal into the abyss, like the dark underworld of a Guillermo del Toro film. This is a one-man descent into the pit of insanity where the fabric of a moral conscience and the illusion of hope disappeared long ago. More of a train wreck than a rollercoaster, Rusted Lock is the flame of a solitary match in a dark tunnel. It illuminates the futility of your situation and brings you to the realisation you will never escape. Welcome to the fetid world of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
Extreme dark ambience might be a better description of the music rather than industrial black death or whatever power noise adjectives you want to associate with metal sub-genres. J. Huston’s musical background is in atmospheric black metal, yet it’s doubtful any of his previous work comes close to this in terms of sinister darkness. The first track is harrowing. ‘Polluted and Barren’ throbs away like a mutilated animal still twitching with a modicum of oxygen as the vultures pick away at its ribs. It’s like that scene in The Poseidon Adventure where Gene Hackman wipes the condensation from his forehead and jumps into the fire below. Only there is no martyrdom or self-sacrifice to save others. The tension never dissipates but subsists on the high-pitched rattling of an incoming train and the sound of incinerating flames. Keyboard drones and tom drums pave the way for military snares and distant wails of human suffering. ‘Dancing with Rot’ continues in the same vain. Imagine the monotone tension of a flamethrower, like the scene in Alien, where the captain searches for the creature in the bowels of the spacecraft. Everybody knows it will end in a violent death. ‘Impenetrable Will’ is even more uncomfortable. Maybe this is what the last moments of flight MH370 sounded like before the aircraft plunged into the Indian Ocean in 2014, never to be seen again.
Standout track, ‘Silence of God’, is surprising in its conventional nature. Drum machines and bass guitar converge in a tragic loop of despair. Think early Swans. Maybe even Joy Division. The Gregorian vocals give hope to the void, hope that there might be a way out of the vengeful hatred eating away inside. Few songs can match the intensity of The Cure’s Pornography album, but ‘Withered Pray’ and ‘Tainted and Estranged’ come close. Again, Huston utilises the hostile sounds of burning flames and blow torches, adding electronic percussion on the former and louder drum crashes towards the end of the latter. The distorted whispers of ‘Graveyard Dirt’ are just as horrific, with snares like falling shells creating havoc on the World War One battlefield. Faint choral harmonies ghost in an out of ‘Withered Pray’ in imitation of trapped souls waiting to be released from limbo. The skin tightens on your skull as if forced to watch footage of Nazi atrocities at Treblinka.
Like Gridfailure and S.C.R.A.M, Scard take you to places you should never wish to see. It’s a world of extreme misanthropy and barbarism, and the inexplicable will to survive. The music will keep you alive for another day in the comfort of knowing it will all be over tomorrow. Then you can perish from the earth in the tragic anonymity you always feared. Nobody will mourn you.
Release Date: 06/11/2020
Record Label: Scry Recordings
Standout tracks: Polluted and Barren, Silence of God, Tainted and Estranged
Suggested Further Listening: Gridfailure – Epicentre MMXX: Quarantine Instrumentals (2020), Swans – Holy Money (1986), S.C.R.A.M – Sellafield Mox (2020)