You’d think a reunion of the lineup that recorded side A of Napalm Death’s breakthrough album, 1987’s Scum, would reignite a fuse on a barrel of TNT.
Well, you’d be wrong.
Sure, Scorn’s 1992 debut album Vae Solis leaves an impression. But that impression is largely “man, this sure sounds like Godflesh.”
Officially, the only two members of Scorn on Vae Solis are Scum drummer Mick Harris and vocalist/bassist Nicholas Bullen.
But Justin Broadrick, vocalist and guitarist for Godflesh and guitarist on Scum, contributes the guitars on this album. That’s not a problem within itself, but the thing is he also brought the Godflesh sound with him.
Many of the songs on Vae Solis could be placed on a Godflesh album and no one would know the difference. That’s not even a desirable things with songs on different albums by the same band, so it’s really bad if you’re a different band leaving that impression.
With that in mind, let’s look at the album itself.
Van Solis, which has a sound that can be best described as “industrial,” kicks off with “Spasm.” “Spasm doesn’t waste time with an intro or build up, it just jumps straight into the song. It’s fast pace, unless you compare it to Napalm Death, and has a pretty decent groove to it, thanks to Bullen and Broaderick. Bullen’s vocals are given a rather liquidy sound, as though he’s trying to gurgle and talk at the same time. The song also has a false end near the middle, which adds an interesting element.
“Hit” is along the same lines as “Spasm” with some samples of a preacher thrown in. “Hit” treads into almost alt-rock territory at some points with its up-tuned guitar playing over the chorus. You also hear hints of things to come with the extended mid-section of the song, with an almost ambient sound feedback and cymbals.
The utterly slow “Deep In-Eaten Over and Over” is one of the most interesting songs on the album. You can effectively feel the slow motion of the drums as Bullen sings over distant snarls, which I believe are probably himself as well.
“On Ice” is another interesting one. It’s tribal percussion element reminds me of ambient act Trial of the Bow. The band concentrates more on sound and atmosphere than it does aggression and guitar. Bullen’s vocals are also at their most clean on the album.
“Fleshpile” is notable for moving Bullen’s bass front and center. Aside from his bass, there’s not a lot to talk about in regards to this song. But it does make me wish we heard more of Bullen’s bass-playing at the front of the mix because he is definitely gifted at it and it seems that is one thing you’d want to emphasize in songwriting.
As mentioned before, several of these songs sound like they were lifted from a Godflesh album. Part of this may be due to Broadrick playing guitar. Part of it could be Bullen sounding an awful lot lick Broadrick when he does vocals for Godflesh on these songs. “Suck and Eat You,” “Walls of My Heart,” “Lick Forever Dog,” “Thoughts of Escape,” “Heavy Blood,” “Scum After Death,”
The album finishes with “Orgy of Holiness” and “Still Life” which are two purely ambient tracks which feel like they don’t belong on this album at all. That’s probably why they, along with “Fleshpile” and “Scum after Death” weren’t included in the original release.
In 1993, Scorn would release Colossus, which diverged from the sound found on Vae Solis. They would continue this route and become more electronic and less metal. This worked for them and made Scorn, which by 1995 was down to Mick Harris following the departure of Bullen. This path brought Scorn much more critical success and helped establish Harris as a major figure in electronic music.
Back to Vae Solis. I wouldn’t recommend buying this album. The few stand out songs can be heard on Youtube for free. After all, why pay for something you feel like you’ve heard before?