What you have before you is the sixth studio album by a band that has rode relentlessly through the UK underground alternative music scene, through adversity and anguish towards triumph.
A brief history: The Scaramanga Six based around founder members Paul Morricone, Steven Morricone and Julia Arnez emerge from the 1990’s Leeds music scene to become a constant creative force, never pausing longer than a month or two throughout the following decade despite line-up changes, microcosm after microcosm of passing scenes, short-lived explosions and a multitude of contemporaries appearing and disappearing. Their sound: bold vocal harmony, crashing dynamics and cinematic guitar noise always at the forefront of their actions. Always musically ambitious and unflappable, the band continues today seemingly indestructible as one of the most prolific and creative underground rock bands in Britain.
Today, on a cold Friday November night The Scaramanga Six leave a studio in Sheffield having completed yet another long journey. There is an air of jubilation, exhaustion, relief and victory as the new album ‘Cursed’ is completed. But this particular journey has not been without drama and turmoil. It was over five years ago that work began with Cardiacs front man and legendary producer, Tim Smith. The band were still completing a previous record ‘The Dance Of Death’ (2007) as the recording started. Over the next two years the band would sporadically appear in Wiltshire where Tim’s magical studio sat waiting and chip away at fourteen or so tracks to make what was penciled as ‘A Pound Of Flesh’. Then tragedy struck.
The band had just released new single ‘Walking Through Houses’ (2008) and had completed the recording of the rest of the album when Tim fell very ill halting the entire production.
Some people look at such adverse circumstances and give it all up as a bad lot. The Scaramanga Six decided the best way to act was to fight fire with fire. In no time the band had written and recorded an entirely new set of material with former cohort James Kenosha at his studio for what would become ‘Songs Of Prey’. This album had leap-frogged the material left behind in Witshire and appeared as the band’s fifth long player early in 2009 with a raw urgency. The Scaramanga Six were clearly paying tribute to the man who had inspired them and felt that to carry on with as much bombast as possible was the best way.
The band now had ‘a lost album’ and as work on more new material started it suddenly hit them. Could they ignore all they had created with Tim? No. The decision was made to record the album again entirely from scratch. Instead of a backwards step, new life was breathed into the songs as eagerness to see this album to a natural conclusion mounted.
In May 2010 the band entered 2Fly Studios in Sheffield with Alan Smyth (Producer of Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, 65 Days of Static, Richard Hawley to name but a few) for the remake. It felt strange at first but instead of a turgid process of replication the new work became an utter monster.
This album sees the band go for an all-out sound. The big production is ambitious and detailed and no punches are pulled. Paul and Steven Morricone swap lead vocals, which are clearer and more soulful than ever. As well as delicious slabs of vocal harmony and razor sharp guitars an array of real stringy orchestration (‘Autopsy of the Mind’, ‘Spent Force’, ‘Rest in Peace’), brass (‘Last Roll of the Dice’, ‘Trouble’) and unusual instrumentation and strange noises courtesy of guest NYC troubadour Thomas Truax (‘Dark Matter’) straddles the new sound triumphantly. The end result is bold. Very bold. Epic.
Someone recently commented that to have to start a work again must have been some kind of bad omen. A curse. But who wants an easy time of things? Every performance or recording seems to be a battle against adversity and a ride in the face of circumstance and the surrounding mediocrity. Yet The Scaramanga Six continue, vaulting the hurdles ultimately blessed because with every chord they are transported to a higher place.
released April 26, 2011
The Scaramanga Six are: Paul Morricone (vocals, guitar), Steven Morricone (vocals, bass, keys), Julia Arnez (vocals, guitar), Gareth Champion (drums).