(In this 62nd edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography to date of Arizona-based Vehemence.)
Recommended for fans of: Abysmal Dawn, God Dethroned, At The Gates,
I currently have more candidates for The Synn Report on my docket than I really know what to do with, and although on the plus side that means I’m in no danger of running out of options within… oh… the next year or two at least… on the negative side of things it means I’m scrambling to write-up and include a number of bands who have new releases out in 2015 (either already released or still forthcoming) and slowly but surely running out of time in which to do so.
One of those bands just happens to be recently resurrected Arizona wrecking crew Vehemence, whose three stellar full-lengths — The Thoughts From Which I Hide (2000), God Was Created (2002), and Helping the World to See (2004) – are soon to be joined by the long-awaited fourth album Forward Without Motion (out Oct. 23rd), which largely reunites the band’s original line-up for nine freshly carved and crafted tracks which aim to put the “DEATH” back into “Melodic Death Metal”.
So what better time than now to get caught up with the band’s killer back-catalogue?
Let the riffing commence!
The Thoughts From Which I Hide – 2000
The band’s self-released debut album has recently been made available digitally online for the first time, and, despite being a little rough around the edges in places, definitely showcases a group with an already-firm grasp of how they want to sound.
“I Take Your Life” is a suitably gnarled and nasty opener, with a nice balance between the slow-churning riffage of Dannov/Wiegand and the stomach churning growls of vocalist Nathan Gearhart, that builds to a sluggish, slime-trailing Death Metal crawl at its climax. This transitions nicely into the lumbering opening bars of “Saying Goodbye”, which slowly but surely (the song is almost 7 minutes long after all) metamorphoses into something more twisted and unpredictable.
The touchingly-titled “Whore Cunt Die” is the band’s token ballad, one which… ok, not really. It’s actually another collection of menacing, bowel-shaking death-grooves and grimy, filth-encrusted vocals that definitely has a lot in common with early Abysmal Dawn, from its sharp-toothed riffage to its weighty, rumbling low-end, and it’s capped off with an unexpectedly melodic solo section.
“What You’ve Become” picks up the pace quite a bit, its chaotic, blast-fuelled and hyper-thrash drum work broken up by interruptions of neck-snapping, slo-mo Death Metal chuggery, and it’s followed by the gloriously morbid “No-One Wins”, probably one of the album’s real highlights, particularly when it comes to harrowing vocals and crushing, glacially-paced riffs.
“Nameless Faces, Scattered Remnants” continues to show the band’s keen grasp of primal, gut-level riffage and filthy, rusted hooks, managing to be suitably malevolent AND memorable at the same time, with the sort of garbled, gore-soaked lyrics that were made to be screamed out in unison with a hundred other budding maniacs, while “Devour the Rotten Flesh” is probably the heaviest thing the band laid down for this album, with not even the relatively primitive production managing to disguise the pulverizing weight of the track’s concrete-heavy guitars and spine-cracking drums.
The album closes with “Reconditioning the Flock”, an extended epic that infuses the band’s cannibalistic Death Metal grind with a dose of icy Black Metal grimness, courtesy of some subtle keyboard textures and the incorporation of some unexpectedly melancholy melody. The solemn, softly-played mid-section is another surprise, and demonstrates the band already looking towards expanding their sound beyond the straight-up Death Metal they’ve already showcased, though the track still doesn’t lack in the heaviness department, with drummer Andy Schroeder still doing his very best to smash his kit to dust over the rest of the track’s eleven-minute run-time.
God Was Created – 2002
It’s immediately apparent that those Black Metal touches on “Reconditioning the Flock” weren’t just a fluke, as the intro to “Made For Her Jesus” positively bleeds cold, northern darkness… a chilling sensation which colours much of the rest of the album as well.
That’s not to say they’ve suddenly turned into a “Blackened Death Metal” band, or anything like that, it’s just that there’s been a big jump in the use of melody on God Was Created — though, if anything, it simply makes the band sound sharper and more malicious (while throwing in a few shades of early At The Gates along the way as well).
Listening to the prominent background keyboards and darkly melodic guitar inflections present throughout “She Never Noticed Me”, it’s no surprise to learn that one of the band’s guitarists, Bjorn Dannov, spent some time in Abigail Williams after the dissolution of Vehemence, though the band as a whole are careful to never let this blackened seasoning take precedence over the central, meaty, Death Metal flavor of the song (not that Gearhart’s bowel-clenching growl would ever allow this to happen).
Both “Fantasy from Pain” and “Christ, I Fucking Hate You!” definitely showcase that early At The Gates/God Dethroned influence I’ve mentioned before, each track deploying a number of prominent melodic leads in amongst a plethora of rumbling riffs and taut tremolo lines. “Christ, I Fucking Hate You!” also displays some brilliant interplay between Gearhart’s ugly growl and the higher, harsher screams of bassist Mark Kozuback, particularly as it draws to its enviably savage conclusion.
The lurching blast-and-pound attack of “Lusting for Affection” pulls back on some of the Black Metal stylings that have been hovering around the edges of the album thus far, delivering a purer Death Metal experience (though one still infected with malignant melody), all neck-snapping, angular rhythmic shifts and bruising, rib-cracking grooves, which is juxtaposed against the razor-edged hooks and spindly riff-work of the more overtly melodic (though no less intense) “The Last Fantasy of Christ”.
The high-energy, string-skipping riffs of “I Didn’t Kill Her”, which twists and turns over eight hectic minutes like an electric-eel overdosed on caffeine, hearkens back to a time when this style of more melodically incisive riffage still felt fresh and still had a prominent Death Metal tinge to it, before it became co-opted and bastardised by the homogeneity of the Metalcore scene, while the bone-rattling title-track again displays the band’s knack for balancing heaving Death Metal brutality and bleak, bleeding melody without sounding like the million other bands who try (and fail) to do the same thing, even hinting at a shamelessly “epic” vibe during its subtly infectious chorus refrain).
As a twin-headed finale, the paired closers of “I Must Not Live” and “The Lord’s Work” end the album on a suitably heavy and ugly note, with the former ricocheting between a moody melodic crawl and a staccato blast attack, while the latter goes straight for the throat from the start and barely (if at all) pauses for breath as it barrels towards the finish line.
Helping the World to See – 2004
Though most fans seem to consider God Was Created to be their best release (so far, anyway), it’s impossible to deny that Helping the World to See also has its own special magic, taking things in a slightly gnarlier, slightly more straightforward, direction than its predecessor.
The cataclysmic “By Your Bedside” is the first example of this minor stylistic shift, with its gruesome gallop and strangulating tremolo lines positively buzzing with murderous rancor, and drummer Andy Schroeder blasting up an absolute storm.
Follow-up “Kill For God” has a touch more melodic malice to its approach, dialing down the aggression slightly in favour of a solemn, mid-paced march of bleakly menacing riffs and nimble-fingered fretwork, while “Trinity Broadcast (Know Your Enemy)” whips up a whirlwind of skin-blistering blastbeats and devilishly harmonized riffs in order to carve out a sound somewhere between the bruising pummel of Kataklysm and the rabid energy of The Black Dahlia Murder, without being derivative of either.
“To The Taste” is a swift, sharp punch to the solar plexus that knocks the wind out of the listener with its spring-loaded, belt-fed chuggery, and that’s followed by the more complex strains of “You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Anymore”, which transitions from a gloomy, piano-laden introduction, to a skittering, stuttering, pseudo-Tech-Death pummeling that stomps and snaps and snarls with real aggression.
“Alone In Your Presence” is a largely melodic and contemplative piece that picks up into a magisterial metallic outro in the last third of the track, offering some breathing room before the neck-snapping drums and hook-handed riffs of “Spirit of the Soldier” take over, all spikes and spite and spitting fire that leads into an audaciously melodic mid/solo section and shamelessly grandiose finale.
Some of the riff work on “Darkness Is Comfort” might seem a little familiar to us now, but back when the album was released it was a time when that early At The Gates sound still had a wealth of fresh influence left to mine, right down to the air-tight, garrote-wire tremolo lines that dominate the song’s second half. Similarly “What Could Go Wrong?” also takes a dose of inspiration from the Bjorler brothers in its scalpel-sharp guitar work, though with a touch more frantic, frenzied aggression and a heavier reliance on juddering blastbeats and grimier, more Death Metal riffs as well.
For pure, whiplash-inducing fun, “We Are All Dying” can’t really be beaten, as it possesses some of the most virulently catchy riffery on the entire album, ably energised by Schroeder’s pinpoint performance behind the kit and topped off by the truly bestial scream/growl interplay of Gearhart and Kozuback. It’s succeeded by the brutish chugging and writhing tremolo lines of “Her Beautiful Eyes”, a re-recording of a song from the band’s first demo that’s here exhumed and sewn back together into a gore-soaked, blast-powered murder-machine.
You can keep up with the band online over at:
PS: As a bonus, here’s “I Don’t Want To Look Inside”, the first single/video from the band’s upcoming album.