One of the more pleasant surprises of 2019 was the release of "Scarecrow" an enthralling slice of genuine sounding 70's flavoured proto-metal/hard rock from a Russian quartet trading under the same name. The band, Artemis (vocals); Elijah (bass); Vadim (drums) and Max (guitar), were probably taken aback somewhat by the reaction to their debut as it seemed everybody who mattered in the worldwide underground scene appeared to be falling over themselves to lavish praise on them and their grooves, and rightly so. Having such a well received debut however can throw up its own problems, the main problem being how do you follow up such an ass-kicking release when its fairly obvious your newly acquired fan-base are going to want more of the same but you as a band have a duty to yourselves to push your music forward. Well the band answer that question with "Scarecrow II", a stunning collection of songs that does not deviate too far from the blueprint the band drew up with "Scarecrow" but is innovative and daring enough not to sound like a re-creation of what has gone before.
Those who have delved a little deeper into Scarecrow's world will already know that the bands singer Artemis has a background in composing, arranging and conducting symphonic/orchestral music (check out his solo project "Artemis' The Endless Journey: North") so it will come as no surprise that some of that work finds its way on to Scarecrow's new album. "The Endless Ocean Overture" opens "II" and has the feel of a soundtrack to a documentary or a movie, the pieces luscious strings, classical style piano and huge cavernous percussion, backed by sound effects of sea and wind, is an epic introduction, if a somewhat unusual one, to an album that gives a whole new meaning to the word diverse. In our review of the bands debut album we compared Artemis' vocals to those of Rush's Geddy Lee and Budgie's Burke Shelley and we still stand by that opinion but there is also a touch of Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale and Mark Melicia of The Parlor Mob to be found in his high wailing vocal style and this especially evident on next track "Blizzard" a song that in its initial stages boasts a heavy proto-metallic groove but then encapsulates elements of proggish jazziness into its sonic attack, guitarist Max throwing every rock guitar cliché in the book into his solos yet still making those solo's sound fresh, new and wholly original, doing this despite bassist Elijah and drummer Vadim's attempts to drown him out with the combined power of their ever shifting rhythmic backdrops. Every band has a blues song in them and Scarecrow are no exception and the one they bring to the table with "Magic Flower" is a blues of rare magnitude and is one with just the merest hint of Zeppelin-esque bluster about it with wailing harmonica and Jimmy Page like guitar textures pushed right to the fore and a "Whole Lotta Love" style lysergic section sitting smack bang in the middle. " Spirit Seducer" follows and and here we find Scarecrow still channelling Zeppelin but more in the way Canada's Rush did on their Neil Peart- less self-titled debut. Having ticked off the their Zeppelin and Rush boxes Scarecrow now concentrate their attentions on doom with the excellent "The Moors", Scarecrow's doom however is a complete departure from the doom of their peers and although it does carry elements of the proto-doomic dynamics, that were once the territory of Black Sabbath and Pentagram, Scarecrow's doom is a much more complex and convoluted beast that incorporates swirling orchestral flourishes and bluesy psychedelic colourings. "The Mushroom King" follows and has a groove similar to something that Deep Purple or Uriah Heep might have attempted back in the day but one with a totally different vocal dynamic and one that occasionally deviates into folk -rock territory. Those folk-rock textures are expanded further on the gently rocking and semi-acoustic "The Golden Times" before the band sign off with epic closer "The Endless Ocean", a enthralling musical piece that sees Artemis' orchestral skills and the rest of the bands abilities to rock out combining together to create a groove that ebbs and flows between symphonic and jazzy while touching all the relevant bases in-between.
Following up on the critical success of their debut was always going to be a big ask for Scarecrow but with "II" they have proved that they are a not just a one hit wonder and that they have the chops, the ideas and the songs to not only match the success they achieved with their debut but to surpass that success.
Check it out ....
© 2021 Frazer Jones