Surdus – Tarnished by Decay

Genre: Symphonic Groove Metal
Origin: Johannesburg, South Africa
Release date: 4 October 2016

review by Flame-Mantous

Surdus is a beast released from the depths of Johannesburg, South Africa. Fusing Groove driven instrumentation, large symphonies, beautiful melodies and bit of in-the-veins anger to bring you a sound that is rather satisfying, dark and full of substance. Believe me when I say that Surdus is a strong force within our local scene, and should definitely be taken and seen as such with the release of their most recent full-length album “Tarnished by Decay”.
From the start, we are welcomed with a beautiful piano led orchestration titled “Contritum Caelum” which leans to a more emotional feeling, that climaxes until it ends out fading out to the sound of rain. Rain, I’m sure most of us can agree, is a soothing sound. So we are met with a very emotional sounding intro, does this prepare us for the rest of the album… hmmm… yes and no, but is that a bad thing? Not really, I love surprises! *Optimistic vibes*

The guitar work on this album is really a treat to listen to. Alec Larsen (Guitars) proves his diversity as a guitar player going from beautiful and/or tantalizing leads, to hard and heavy chugs. The tone is rather appealing, a rather bass-y low end with a clear and full lead sound, that is perfectly audible and distinguishable from all the orchestration. There is a nice variation of natural and pinched harmonics, groovy riffs and smooth transitions from one riff section to the next. One of the things I really dig about this style of playing, is the mix of chugs perfectly combing with melodic or perfectly placed chords which add a good amount of feeling within heavier parts such as breakdowns. On the other hand, the chugs are sometimes over used and get tiring from time to time, especially if they aren’t ending in a different chord or note.

The bass (the thing no one never really notices – a crying shame I tell you) is spectacular on this album. When playing metal with only one guitarist, you need a damn good bass player to fill up the space. Simon Werner does an exceptional job of this, expressing his competence as a bass player, perfectly creating the connection to the drums, with interesting grooves, and at times playing with the guitar to exhilarate the power and impact of the riff while still expressing individuality. And the tone… so tasty. On my favorite track “Beasts of the Sea”, the bass tone is so unbelievably powerful, I absolutely love it.

The drums are an absolute treat to listen to, as they are tonally, incredible. As far as I know the drums are programmed, but my damn, you wouldn’t say so. The kit sounds so acoustic and so full and hearty, that you would swear that it’s not electronic. The drums are a combination of hard simple drums and hard hitting and clever fills but also includes some speedy and technical stuff when the times right. I absolutely love it. These drums perfectly compliment the vibes coming off the album. Very, very impressed.


The vocals (Yes, Mr Vocalist, I remembered you!) are something that for me is a different experience. Shane Jackson is a vocalist that reminds me of another local vocalist… if you guys have ever heard the cape town Melodic Death Metal act, Imperial Destruction, with front man Jason Modryc, you will know what I’m talking about. The vocals are very low, breathy, but guttural. The vocals have taken some time to get used to, because at times I loved the style, but at times I really didn’t. This is actually quite the unique vocal style and I’ve grown to like it, it’s a very distinguishable sound. Its definitely not due to Shane being limited, because there are some fierce highs and some really guttural lows on this album that absolutely blew me away. My favourite track (as I mentioned before) “Beasts of the Sea” features a clean vocal in the chorus, as do “Weather the Sun”, “Strip the Rot”, “Resemblance is Dead” and “Tulpa Effect”. I absolutely love the addition of these vocals as it adds to the emotional and tranquil value of these tracks.

Surdus has shown us with this album that their formula works. Their music is groovy as it is heavy, and is beautiful as it is terrifying. On certain tracks, these techniques used can become tiresome sounding, but do I think this hinders the album hugely… no, absolutely not. When the album seems to be slipping from track to track, Surdus always come fighting back very strong, creating solid song structure, Large and epic moments, and will leave you wanting more.

“Tarnished by Decay” is an album that is well produced, spawns a huge sound, and creates awesome harmonies and melodies with infectious grooves in between, coupled with some amazing musicianship. Unfortunately it’s not without its few issues, but this is an epic album that is worth your time. Grab a copy as soon as you can!

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