One of the UK’s best kept secrets, Edinburgh’s Scumpulse are itching to take their crusty blend of black metal and hardcore to the next level. HRH Mag’s Rich Holmes caught up with vocalist/guitarist Ross Necro and bassist Matt Dean to find out why this DIY act could set the extreme music scene ablaze…
Punked up black metal, blackened hardcore – it’s nothing new, right? Bands like Iskra, Immortal Bird and Martyrdöd have all gained plenty of acclaim for blending crust with BM’s searing riffery in recent years.
OK, it may not be for the purists on either side of the divide. But when done right, this kind of sonic assault is a mighty adrenaline hit.
Yet one of the most exciting prospects in this sub-scene – Edinburgh’s Scumpulse – have gone under the radar a little, especially compared to their North American or Scandinavian counterparts. With a new album in the pipeline, though, that could change very quickly.
The quartet first emerged from the Edinburgh underground in 2014 with the By Design EP and followed that up with the incendiary debut album, Rotten. Written in 2015 but only released this year, it sees the band take aim at worker exploitation, capitalism and the rat race to a soundtrack of crunching, frostbitten BM riffs and furious crustcore. Think Immortal ditching the corpsepaint and growing dreadlocks and mohawks, and you’d be getting close.
“I suppose I’m influenced by things around me,” explains bassist and chief lyricist Matt Dean. “Wage Decay (one of the eight tracks that make up Rotten) was written at a time where I was stuck in a rut at in a job. I had been there for years and I was doing a lot more work than I was being rewarded for. A constant carrot of decent money was being dangled in front of me but I never got it. Bills were mounting up and I began to really resent how cheaply I was selling my time. Work is shite is the short answer!”
Scottish independence is also firmly on the Scumpulse’s agenda. Take Rotten’s opener, Alba Gu Bràth, for example. “We were given the chance to have our own voice on the world stage and just over half the country decided it was better to let someone else speak for us,” says Matt. “That we fucked ourselves… that’s really disappointing.”
After four years together, do the band see black metal and crust punk as natural bedfellows? Guitarist/vocalist Ross Necro takes up the baton: “Musically, if not idealistically. That in itself can be problematic given that I don’t support very extreme opinions, right or left, even if I identify myself as being left wing.
“Obviously these two styles attract very strong opinions in both camps and that can sometimes put bands like us in an awkward position. We’ve successfully navigated our way through the worst examples of fans thus far though. I’d say that if you like black metal but hate Hitler, you’ll probably like us!”
You only have to glimpse the cover of Rotten – depicting a balaclava clad capitalist kingpin pulling the strings while factory chimneys spew out pollutants – to understand that 1980s anarcho punk and grindcore have made their indelible mark on Scumpulse. “The art was produced by the amazing Kasper Sandal Povlsen based on the back of a fag packet sketch that we sent over to him,” says Matt. “Given the source material he did a fucking amazing job. It is definitely influenced by that era’s style; that period has a very strong influence on some parts of Scumpulse. We wanted a cover that reflected the content and stayed true with the aesthetic of our sound. I think we achieved that. Early Napalm Death covers were looked at beforehand for sure.”
Writing is well underway on Rotten’s follow-up. It’s leaning “more towards metal” than its predecessors, according to Ross, though it will retain the punk edge that’s part of the band’s DNA. The change, he suggests, is mainly down to him becoming a better guitarist, through years of playing with lead six stringer Magnus Tait. “The riffs and overall compositions are more challenging to play than the older material,” Ross reveals. “I’m becoming less and less interested in the local punk scene as the years go by too – though not globally – so that may be a factor.
“To my mind, the real punk part of our older material was Matt’s lyrics anyway and I can’t see that changing going forward.
“What I’ve written so far is a bit more technical, a bit faster, and has one or two ideas thrown in inspired by bands I hadn’t touched previously.”
Scumpulse’s frontman hints at his frustration over the delay in Rotten’s release. It’s made him all the more eager to see the band – completed by drummer Andrew Rankine, who also handles production duties – rush headlong into the fray.
“Given how long it took to get Rotten out I’d started to lose motivation and was pursuing different projects,” says Ross. “The writing process is my favourite part of playing in bands and now that Rotten has finally been released and I can look beyond it, I’m hugely motivated to smash fuck out of the follow up and have it out in a far shorter time.
“The whole process should be more streamlined going forward. Andrew has built up his home studio and is recording bands full time. We’ve signed to Gore House Productions so there’s no label search. We have a very talented artist at the ready to do the sleeve.”
And they’re also ready to hit the road. Europe is in their sights this year, with the US on the wishlist for 2019. Touring as a DIY band, though, can be a challenge…
“The lows are the same for UK DIY band, not getting paid for your time, not getting fed, having to sleep in the van during winter, cuddling up to piss jugs for warmth,” laughs Ross. “Seriously though, we’ve had some banging gigs but the highlights at the end of every tour are always the friendships we make with the local bands we’ve played with.
“We are very receptive to people who want to get fucked up with us and fortunately we always seem to attract those kinds of people.”
Are there any bands they’d like to share stages with? Ross has some ideas up his sleeve: “We recently played a few dates with Ancst from Germany and those boys are shit hot. I’d love to play with them again and we’re in talks to do so.
“Our dream gig? Classic Immortal, Emperor, obviously with us headlining. After the gig Abbath and Ihsahn will remark on how they’re inspired by my riffs and I’ll be cool about it and give them the time of day!”
It’s admittedly a long shot, but if the follow-up to Rotten is an even stronger record than the boys’ debut, he might just get his wish…
Rotten is out now on Gore House Productions. For more info, check out http://www.scumpulse.co.uk/