(We present Andy Synn’s review of the debut album by the UK death metal band Vacivus, set for release by Profound Lore on September 22nd.)
Here’s a seemingly simple, but actually incredibly complex, question – why are some bands good and other bands… less so?
Or, to be more specific, what makes some bands capable of spinning fresh gold out of a well-worn sound, while others are doomed to wallow in their own mediocrity?
This is something I’ve been wondering about quite a bit recently, after I came across a pair of Death Metal bands from the UK, both of whom have been receiving a fair bit of hype and attention online, whose albums couldn’t have more clearly represented the opposite ends of this spectrum.
You see, whereas one of these albums (whose name has been withheld out of respect to the victims) turned out to be one of the most painfully unoriginal and uninspired records I’ve heard all year, the other captured a certain freshness, a viciousness, a certain sense of drive and urgency, which made it an absolute joy to listen to.
So whatever this particular attribute, this special x-factor is, it’s clear that Vacivus definitely have it.
Of course it’s perhaps a little disingenuous to frame that question above as part of a comparison between equals when the sheer disparity between the two albums is so blatantly obvious.
But I find it useful, now and then, to remind myself of the difference in quality between a “good” album, and a “not so good” album.
Make no mistake about it though, Temple of the Abyss is most definitely one of the good ones.
Steeped in Old School Death Metal dirt, but with an extra dose of murky, miasmal darkness added for good measure, tracks like the merciless “Towards Infinite Chasms” and the utterly ravenous “Oubliette” don’t so much seek to reinvent the wheel as they do simply slather it in blood and fire and load it full of grisly hooks and utterly filthy riffs until it’s positively creaking under its own weight.
These riffs are, without a doubt, the backbone of the album. Meaty and substantial – thick enough to really sink your teeth into, but neither over (or under) cooked to the point where they lose their distinctive flavour – they come coated with a layer of sonic slime (courtesy of the album’s gritty and grime-soaked production) which makes them easy to swallow but which doesn’t strip them of their edge.
As a result, numbers like the gloriously gruesome “Summoning Apophis” (with its gut-wrenching blend of grim grooves, pulse-pounding blasts, and skin-crawling atmosphere) and the ground ‘n’ pound assault of the title-track are as catchy as they are crushing, as hooky as they are heavy, and fuelled by a seething rage and palpable fury which makes them impossible to ignore (and difficult to forget).
It helps of course that, as decidedly nasty and cutthroat as Vacivus are, the band clearly recognise the value that a ghoulishly evil melody can add, and employ some menacingly melodic touches here and there – such as during the climax of the devilishly dynamic “Cosmological Necrotism” (which may well be my pick of the bunch), or the morbidly atmospheric mid-section of the gnarly “Filii Inferos” – to great effect.
No-one here is claiming of course – least of all the band themselves – that Temple of the Abyss is some sort of new stage in the evolution of Death Metal. Heck, there are those who’d argue that the genre doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) evolve at all.
But there’s no denying that these eight tracks (well, seven plus an intro) are a more than worthy addition to the canon, and more than capable of delivering enough neck-wrecking riffs and skin-shredding solos – not to mention some hideously effective vocal hooks – to satisfy even the most jaded of deathheads.
Which, let’s be honest, is more than you can say for some bands…