I had not heard of Unmensch before, but that is not that strange, for this project was formed just two years ago. It is the outlet of one ZR, a guy (or girl, who knows) from the far West of Flanders. Little is known about both musician and project, for Scorn is the first official release by this mysterious outfit. The only thing I know is that his or her ‘music reflects the resentment towards the herd and focusses on individual strength and wisdom’. As a one-(wo)man army that’s an honest statement!
Scorn, as said, is the debut for Unmensch. Everything was written and composed by this ZR, assisted in the studio (recording, mix and mastering) by Lander Cluyse (known from his collaboration with e.g. Oathbreaker, Wiegedood, Leng Tch’e and many more). Besides a digital edition, there are 500 copies on CD (so-called jewelcase with an eight-page booklet), available via Immortal Frost Productions, the label owned by Ars Veneficium’s vocalist S.
Scorn lasts for about fifty minutes (eight titles) and stands for what I call ‘essential Second Wave Black Metal’, Scandinavian-inspired Black Metal in its purest form. This material reeks of the Nineties, when the so-called ‘Nordic-oriented’ sound was still unrefined and rude. No, it does not mean that the sound quality sucks – for that is not the case for sure. Actually, the production is very decent and professional, with an excellent mixture in between all ingredients (voices and instruments). But the nice thing is that there is no over-production either, resulting in an album that lacks of catchy exaggeration or a pathetically clinical sound result. Seriously, in this album’s case, the balance in between unpolished rawness and professional studio work is simply perfect.
That mixture of vocals and instrumentation I mentioned, goes for the sound, as said, yet also for the presence / representation throughout the whole of the album. Okay, the bottom line is that there surely is a guitar-oriented identity, with grandiose riffing and some prominent solos or leads, but the focus is much more open-minded. All ingredients are necessary to turn into a successful story. The rhythm guitars and bass lines are convincingly supportive, strengthening the leading riffs with both nastiness and elegance. And then those drums (performed, if I am not mistaken, by a guest / session musician?), with patterns sometimes militaristic like artillery fire, then again as if they create an own melody. Here too there is no hint of exaggeration, though the whole percussion work is represented as an actor indispensable on the stage. Especially within some of the slower passages (cf. a piece like The Path), those drums carry the whole with a fierce yet honest conviction. The vocal lines too are not too much pushed at the foreground, yet woven carefully in an organic way into this mighty audio play. ZR has a very raspy, grim throat, breathing sulphur and spitting scorn (haha, got it?).
Besides all those ‘traditional’ elements (bass and electric strings, drums and vocals), Unmensch make use of acoustic elements and keyboards too, carefully used at the right moment. It is used to accentuate specific details, like in outros to finish several epics in beauty, or to give colour (or on the contrary, to withdraw the last substance of light!), in order to accentuate the grim atmosphere. Even grand piano and (church) bells do pass the revue. It has something orchestral from time to time, then again it darkens the oppressive atmosphere even more. Listen to Wolf, for example, to understand this quote.
What follows is purely personal, and therefor subjective, but when talking about Black Metal inspired by the Swedish scene from the Second Wave era, I do like it when a band or project creates room for variation in structure and, especially, in tempo. I do not dislike an album that blasts and thrashes the whole of the time, but once in a while a deceleration might do just fine. Well, that is exactly what Unmensch are all about. Yeah, there are loads of totally frenzy outbursts, unstoppable bulldozer attacks and merciless eruptions going on. The great thing is that those fierce pieces do maintain the melodious character. Yet at the same time, Scorn offers a lot of slower passages too, which is nothing but adorable. The equilibrium in between fastness and doomier moments sounds, by the way, quite naturally; not exorbitant or overdone, yet neatly balanced in an organic way.
The comparison with Setherial, Lord Belial, Dark Funeral and the likes might do for sure. The best thing, however, is that Unmensch are not just a cheap copycat from any of them. Hell no, this is not an album that renews the scene, nor does it trespass the known limitations of this specific approach. Yet still one must appreciate the personal execution and song writing of this band’s frontman.