SCOUR “Beyond the Black” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

The definition of “scour” is to rub hard with a rough material for the purpose of cleansing. Well, the band SCOUR is about as rough a material as you will find and they are out to cleanse by rubbing your brain cells down to the atomic level. This is a true supergroup of some of extreme metal’s best and they are out to obliterate.

Their plan of attack has been methodical and precise. Three EP s of six songs each have been released on a regular basis since 2017, each named after a color. In 2020, the final “Black” EP was released. The most intense yet, it seemed to grimly fit the horrific nature of the year.

In light of “Black”’s release, I thought it was a good time to speak to guitarist DEREK ENGEMANN, an alumni of CATTLE DECAPITATION and member of PHIL ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS. I was surprised to find out that Derek is in many ways the general in command of this project. He enlightened me to SCOUR’s methods and ultimate goal here and you are invited to find out more...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: We just had the release of the “Black” EP, which is the last of a series of 3 Eps SCOUR has released. I always thought the music of SCOUR was so intense that the EP format was actually perfect for the band. How have your thoughts turned to doing a full length and how would you adapt to that kind of release?

DEREK ENGEMANN: That’s cool to hear because honestly I felt the same way about the EP format and how it worked for SCOUR, especially on “The Black”. I’ve listened to it every day and it’s just straight crushing. I thought the Eps have always worked, we’ve always had it charted this way. John Jarvis and I had this idea of doing 3 EP’s of 6 songs each to get a trilogy of 666. We completed that and moving forward, we are working towards the full length. I have a really good plan in mind that’s going to work conceptually with SCOUR. I don’t think it will be too much. It’s not going to be an hour long, I can tell you that much.

WC: That’s what I was thinking. Even on a full length, I can’t see it going much longer than 35 or 40 minutes because to be honest you’d get worn down by it.

DE: Yeah, I think you’re pretty much on the money. We wouldn’t do that to our poor drummer Adam Jarvis! (laughs)

WC: Yes, especially him! I notice that each EP has one song that’s more of a songscape. Those are pretty ominous but are obviously different than the usual SCOUR song. Will you be experimenting more with that kind of sound?

DE: Absolutely. All 3 of the songs are pretty much a precursor to the final song on each EP. If you listen closely, you can hear the main theme being expressed in the instrumental accompaniment. It’s definitely something that I plan to go forward with. It’s something I’ve been utilizing and using since I was in CATTLE DECAPITATION, going into “Kingdom of Tyrants”. I’m kind of using the same structure, if you will. I would definitely expect more of that and Phil (Anselmo) has expressed some interest himself in doing some instrumental pieces. He’s got all kinds of awesome horror movie soundtrack type instruments. I’m excited to see him get involved with that as well.

WC: Here’s a kind of strange question. What makes a song suitable for being on “The Black” EP as opposed to “The Red” or “The Grey” EP? How do you get yourself in a “black” frame of mind?

DE: That is a good question. They are based a lot on the time period...they are a collection of songs from a particular era. But also, when we first came out, we weren’t sure what we were going to do and “The Grey” just kind of happened. When we were coming out with “The Red”, we had more of a “fire of vengeance” theme. We knew “red” was going to be the second one and then “The Black” was next. “Black” had to be more fierce, more mature and darker, if you will. It’s funny, one of the songs “Nail” was written for “Red” and I wasn’t satisfied with it so I shelved it. And then John Jarvis was like, hey, maybe you should revisit that song. He really dug it so I went back and made a couple of key changes that shifted it and then it fit the rest of “The Black” perfectly.

WC: I would imagine some of the songwriting for “The Black” was done before the current pandemic era. We are living in a dystopian world anyway. How does that affect how the band sounds and how it approaches things?

DE:  The music actually was written quite a while ago. We really wanted to release “The Black” on Black Friday 2019 but it just wasn’t quite up to snuff. So instead we dropped the cover the BATHORY’s “Massacre” just to hold people over. What’s really interesting is that the lyrics were recorded before the pandemic hit. But you hear Phil talking about “pandemic virus” and “microbes”, all that shit. It wasn’t written in lockdown, it was written before. I gotta give that credit to Phil...what was going on there? He had a little premonition, I guess. It was pretty wild how it worked out.

WC: You also work with Phil in THE ILLEGALS. What are some of the differences in how SCOUR and THE ILLEGALS approach things? I’m sure it’s quite different.

DE: Very different! For starters, I play guitar in SCOUR and I’m the bassist in THE ILLEGALS. I actually feel more comfortable playing bass. I’ts what I started out on. As far as the writing goes, for SCOUR, I do all the writing myself. I’ll even map out the drums and then take it from there and have the other guys put their stamp on it. But for THE ILLEGALS, the writing approach is more of a collective unit. Phil will bring in a lot of riffs. He’ll sit down with a guitar and show us what’s up. Or somebody else will do the same and we jam on it. I wasn’t part of the writing on any previous album so the next record will be my first ILLEGALS job. It’s a complete night-and-day  difference between the two projects. On SCOUR, I go in with an idea, lay it down, cut it off...we don’t want to fuck with things too much and lose the original spirit. Whereas THE ILLEGALS is totally opposite. Somebody will bring in a riff and then, we gotta fuck it up. We’ll make it as dark and ugly as possible. It’s definitely not what it was when it came in. It’s cool to have those two different keeps you on your toes, you know.

WC: With SCOUR, you’ve got quite a collection of talent...guys from PIG DESTROYER and MISERY INDEX and AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED. Does each guy mark out a territory and stick to it? It sounds like you’re one of the guiding lights of SCOUR, one of the generals. Is that the way it works out?

DE: General...yes, I like that description, (chuckles) It’s funny because SCOUR has a kind of “militant” vibe. Even though we weren’t in the military, when it comes to the band, it’s all business. All of us are actually long time friends. I’ve been friends with them for 20 years. Mark and I have a band together called CAST IN STONE.  The Jarvis Brothers have their band ALL WILL FALL. We all come from St. Louis so our bands would always play together. I’ve known them for years. I’ve seen their “riffing catalogs”...they’re all phenomenal players but they pretty much let me be the guiding force. I know I can depend on them and trust them, but I’m also blown away by the talent. I mean, Adam the drummer is just fucking crushing on the “Black” EP.

WC: Inhuman, almost…

DE: (laughs) Yeah, it’s cool! It was cool to seem him lay down those tracks.

WC: It must be hard trying to get everybody’s schedule to sync up because of all the other bands and projects involved. Do you see any sort of live path for SCOUR once we get out of the pandemic?

DE: Absolutely. SCOUR started out as a side project. MISERY INDEX are road dogs for sure and us guys in CATTLE DECAP were touring all the time. Phil’s got a hundred bands he runs with, of course. The thing with us is that none of us are haters. If none of us are on tour with somebody else, hell yeah! If we get an offer and nobody’s busy, we’re going to entertain that offer.  We’ve had to turn down a lot of stuff because of schedules, but we’ll see what happens. There’s talk about doing something live soon, there should be some information coming soon, but we definitely plan on doing some festivals later next year if Covid can get wrapped up.

WC: I think the first part of 2021 is going to be chaotic, but I’m hopeful things will start happening in the second half of that year. Like everybody else, I’m going nuts being cooped up. I haven’t seen a live band in this entire calendar year which is killing me. And it’s gotta be worse for the guys who are actually in bands.

DE: It’s been brutal. THE ILLEGALS, we were in Mexico City. We did one show on Saturday and then they were gonna do a second show on Sunday. We got the call that it was canceled and we had to get back to the US immediately before things shut down completely. 

WC: I’ve heard some horror stories of people trapped in other countries because of this. There’s really no choice...we have to find a way out of this because it can’t continue.

DE: THE ILLEGALS are supposed to be making up for this year in July of next year. Fingers crossed that everything is opened up by then, but who knows what Hellfest or Wacken will even look like?

WC: I guess we’ll all find out together…

DE: Yes, we’re in this together! (laughs)

WC:  Yes, let’s overdo the cliches!(laughs) Now one good thing that’s happened is SCOUR hooked up with Nuclear Blast Records and that’s got to be a big advantage. They’re probably the largest metal label in the world. How did that come about?

DE: This has been pretty awesome, actually. I met Gerardo, who runs Nuclear Blast. He came out to a few of the SLAYER shows we did and we have some mutual friends. We had some rapport right away but he’s been friends with Phil for a long time. As we were in the stages of releasing the “Black” EP on Housecore Records,we got linked with the European branch of Nuclear Blast. It was awesome having Team SCOUR because we had Housecore doing North America and then a whole other team doing Nuclear Blast in Germany. They were sending me emails at 2 in the morning...I had just a small window of time at 2 in the morning where I could catch them and get things done. Then the SCOUR guys in general have always had a DIY attitude so it’s almost like we had a third team that was working their connections and try and do as much as we can for the band. It’s been awesome, honestly.

WC: What was the last release you got just because you wanted to hear the band?

DE: I guess the last one I got actually came out the same day as the new SCOUR. I got the new HATEBREED.

WC: What did you think of that one?

DE: I thought it was crushing. I love HATEBREED. I know it’s quite different from SCOUR. I’m a huge fan of their last record. I thought the production was flawless, in my opinion. They all have their own unique sound, but this record has just been pretty damn crushing. Even though it came out the same day as SCOUR, I have to give it up.

WC: You are labelmates now, so you never know what’s going to happen in the future.

DE: That is correct! Wayne, their guitar player, actually came out to an ILLEGALS show this year because HATEBREED was playing just down the road. We met, we got to hangout...I hope that one day we could play together. I’d be all about it.

WC: Now this next one can apply to any of the bands you’ve been in. Have you ever had a Spinal Tap moment where things went wrong that lingers in your mind?

DE: Oh my God...where to begin?

WC: The first one that hits you.

DE: Two pop into my mind right off the bat. As a literal Spinal Tap moment, we were with THE ILLEGALS on the SLAYER tour. I remember one day we were trying to find the stage in this big arena and we were just walking everywhere. We were just straight up calling out Spinal Tap references. (laughs) Another ILLEGALS moment that was way Spinal Tap came when we were playing in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the flight got delayed. By the time the plane landed, it was 10 PM and we were supposed to go on stage at 7 PM. We were like, well, I guess we missed the show. But when we got to the airport, there was a huge crowd of people waiting for us and the promoters got in touch and said, everybody’s here waiting for you guys! I guess it had been a sold out show of around 2500 people there since noon and they opened the doors at 5 and everybody was there getting drunk and waiting for us. We all looked at each other...alright, let’s get there as quick as we can! I think we got to the venue right at midnight. 12:30 we hit the stage and the place just erupted. It was insane, these people had been waiting all day.

WC: That’s what South America is like. Their equivalent of the 80’s is now. They are what we were in the 80’s. I don’t know if that incident would ever happen in the States now.

DE: Oh man, it’s unreal! Buenos Aires, almost got like a soccer crowd that are chanting. It’s fucking unreal!

WC: Any last words for the fans?

DE: Yes! Keep an eye out for some big news about something special for all the SCOUR fans. And if you need some merch, go to Night Shift Merch. Pick up the new EP at the Housecore store online and everywhere else in the world at Nuclear Blast.