Varials is not content to sit in one seat for too long. Personally, I think that's a good thing. Had the excellent but reasonably invariant debut Pain Again set the standard going forward, we might have had a much more one dimensional experience in 2019 follow-up In Darkness, which split the workload between purist metalcore and an alt-metal sound much more reminiscent of Deftones than Desolated.
While Varials now occupies a place somewhere in the middle of both worlds, there's no lack of the punishing aggression that you would expect from them. Smashing your brain to pieces via your ears is still the primary delivery system of the Philadelphia outfit's brand of ruthlessness – you needn't look far into Scars For You To Remember to find breakdowns that run riot over the decimating drum work of the title track or the roaring violence of "Ritual Division (HAÜS)," that don't so much scratch the hardcore itch as obliterate it with precision missile strikes.
The flip side of that coin is that the method of Varials' expansion into new ideas and experimentations is much more varied this time, with some tracks receiving a much more even split of new and old. The opener "A Body Wrapped In Plastic: Prologue" merely plays with some electronica-tinged bass in the build up to a more traditional smash and grab hardcore beatdown, while "Phantom Power" plays in both domains more freely, to the point of replacing breakdowns with drum and bass sections. It's the last thing you'd expect, but the execution is fantastic and indicative of the control the band has over the elements they're producing.
Those elements go further and bolder, too. ".50" is a Slipknot-esque medley of crushing heaviness and effects driven accoutrements, while "Day 3 : Revenge" delivers one of the biggest hits of nu-metal influence on the album; discordant harmonies swaying over thuggish breakdowns that pumps the extras in over the top of the metalcore harshness. "Circles," meanwhile, feels like a track out of time, a 2000s era rush of alt-metal that cruises along like it owns the place despite it being the odd one out.
The mix of styles within the individual songs is expertly done, but the shift in gear between some tracks can be disjointed if not outright jarring. The return of the interlude tracks, acting as "chapter breaks" between the narrative structure of the album, will divide opinion in this sense. They capture an essence of Varials' theming and storytelling that highlights transition but they also, possibly more importantly, murder the pace and any built up momentum. They're not bad as tracks – "The Gold Room : Chapter 3" in particular sounds literally sludgy and strangely pleasing on the ear – but they're not great for the album as a whole.
Scars For You To Remember might lose a little more of that hardcore edge that Varials trimmed off a little with In Darkness, but it delivers a startlingly refreshing experience courtesy of the tweaks. It's still as heavy as it gets, just in fewer places and while some may decry the direction taken, there's plenty here to please the self-confessed purists and newcomers alike.