Scythra's Forever Unclean: "A Faulkerian Literary Masterpiece"

Scythra  In front: Riley McLennan - Left to Right: Troy Shields, Zack Bellina, Yianni Pantelopoulos


In front: Riley McLennan - Left to Right: Troy Shields, Zack Bellina, Yianni Pantelopoulos

Nick Murray

Death Metal certainly isn't the most popular type of music in Saskatchewan; but it's definitely got a scene and there are most definitely some really great Death Metal bands kicking around the province. 

Enter Scythra, a Regina 4-piece known, until recently, for writing songs about the beauty of life and the joy of the human form; titles like "Immolated Corpses", "Umbilically Suffocated" and "Asphyxiated Cadaver" from their 2017 debut album Human Cesspool among their most popular offerings. 

For the band's most recent recording, their sophomore effort, Forever Unclean, the band has undergone a change it seems. Gone are the tracks involving mutilation and gore, the trademarks of Brutal Death Metal around the globe and in their place, three long progressive tracks that display a song writing depth not yet seen in Scythra. Gone were the trademarks of Cannibal Corpse, Disgorge and Devourment; and in their place the sound of Allegaeon and Rivers of Nihil, who strangely enough, played a show with Scythra in Regina, not that long ago. 

Forever Unclean is 27 minutes of aggressive growling, squealing guitars and thudding, rapid fire double-kick drums that can be listened to continuously, as a cohesive album, or as three separate and distinct tracks, in a series: Premonition 1: Intent; Premonition 2: Exile and Premonition 3: Rebirth. 

Although quite a bit different in scope than Human Cesspool, Forever Unclean is still intense death metal in all its glory. Thick vocals, slicing strings, solid breakdowns, “stream of consciousness” lyrics like “Gutless/only you know/an expired reign lies/made of dead wood to be forgotten and burned/ arising from cracked earth/limbless swarm grieving their decapitated Godhead/ at the hands of a once tortured truth”.

It’s in the lyrics where the real genius of Forever Unclean shines. Whether the band realizes it or not, I think they’ve created the world’s longest run-on sentence. The lyrics sprawl from one track to the next, both complete and incomplete simultaneously and though the music behind them might change, they remain consistently deep, intriguing and meaningless, like something out of an At The Drive-In record only without periods, commas and semi-colons. Forever Unclean reads as one sentence, and its about 550 words long. It’s a Faulknerian literary masterpiece.


"We took a lot of the same steps with recording Forever Unclean as we did with Human Cesspool" said Riley McLennan who plays guitar and sings. "We once again recorded with Justin Bender, who we believe is the absolute best option for metal bands in Saskatchewan to make records." 

Bender runs Divergent Sounds out of his home studio in Moose Jaw.

"He is amazing to work with" added McLennan. "He'll let you achieve whatever weird vision you may have in mind, while also not being afraid to tell you if he thinks something isn't working out."

With Bender at the helm, the band recorded 10 minutes of abstract noise (to accompany the 27 minutes of abstract lyricism) and layered them over and over again to achieve the album's sound.

The band was going for a certain "level of ridiculousness" admitted McLennan. "It turned out perfect."

The guys in Scythra (Riley, Zack Bellina, Yianni Pantelopoulos and Troy Shields) all understand the limitations associated with Death Metal. It's followers are a small, niche market and writing solely for them isn't gonna make these guys rich any time soon.

"Everyone in the band enjoys listening to genres outside of metal, and we would all love to make something else that is more pleasant to the ear" said McLennan, "but we also all feel the need to express the dark and intense feelings we have inside of us that make us humans.”

We make music for the sake of expression, and if you’re only in it for the money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons
— Riley McLennan, Scythra

Scythra had their official Forever Unclean album release party at the Exchange on Friday the 5th; there was reportedly around 100 people in attendance. Scythra played stuff from the new album and had opening performances from Cell, Vahtek and Anemone, who the fans liked very much as well. 

Scythra playing the Black Mourning Light Metal Festival in Edmonton

Scythra playing the Black Mourning Light Metal Festival in Edmonton

"We were so happy to see how many people came through the door and showed their support to all of the bands that played." 

The album's artwork was created by Claire Lamb, from Vancouver. 

"She does these really cool abstract paintings where she essentially just pours paint onto a canvas, and it somehow ends up looking insanely cool" said McLennan. 

As for what the guys in Scythra plan on doing now that the album is out, McLennan says "we are just going to continue making art because its what we love to do."

The band's other guitarist, Zack Bellina, is also a member of Altars of Grief, a Doom Metal band that was once featured in Vice. McLennan says "they dropped an utterly phenomenal album earlier this year, and you can expect to see them out on the road a lot in the future."

He also added that "everyone in the band is always involved in some other project outside of Scythra, so we will always be in your ear in some form or another."

For those who may not know a lot about Death Metal or for those who might want the guitar player in Scythra to recommend some great metal tracks to guide them along the way in their death metal odyssey, we had him tell us three songs he was influenced by. Click on the title of each track to listen to the songs.

Cannibal CorpseHammer Smashed Face

"It's an obvious classic and was the first death metal song that I ever got into."

Morbid AngelGod of Emptiness 

"In my mind it still stands as the best death metal song of all time. Absolutely massive riffs." 

Rivers of NihilThe Silent Life 

"They're a fairly new band in the genre that's making a lot of waves, and this song exemplifies how they are using certain elements of jazz and post-rock to push the envelope of what death metal can sound like. They are a massive influence on us."

You can find Forever Unclean on Spotify, YouTube, Google Play, Apple Music and Bandcamp

Check out Forever Unclear here: