Years ago I wrote that New Zealand’s Vassafor is “a force of nature”, and then caught myself — they are a supernatural force. Their music merits what the dictionary tells us about the meaning of that word: a manifestation attributed to forces beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature, the reflection of an order of existence beyond the visible, observable universe.
But “supernatural” may not be exactly the right word either, because it derives from a 15th century Latin term (supernaturalis), which meant “above nature”, in the sense of God-given and divine. And there is no God in this music, no promise of salvation, and certainly no mercy. Instead, the sound of Vassafor channels and embraces our worst fears, and more than that, seems to exult in them.
Our friend from New Zealand, Craig Hayes, will soon be visiting us again to deliver a review of the new Vassafor album, the name of which is Malediction, and so I’ll confine myself to the one song that we’re helping to premiere today, “Illumination of the Sinister“. But some of his words from the review of another NZ band’s new album seem appropriate as a starting point here:
“To be honest, it’s not the easiest task coming up with fresh ways to unpack more bestial metal from the southern reaches…. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism of war metal’s established characteristics…. It’s simply that war metal’s parameters are so resolutely set in stone. There’s only so much you can say about the subgenre before you’re reiterating the same points or uttering the same phrases.
“Obviously, that’s partly because war metal itself is reductive and regressive. [The] early architects… weren’t remotely interested in broadening their sound. They wanted to condense and compress metal’s vilest, evilest and most chaotic elements into a singular obliterating razorstorm.”
There is truth in those words, but Vassafor is not a typical war metal band, as this new song “Illumination of the Sinister” demonstrates. They take nearly 11 minutes to complete this piece of shivering black/death sorcery. Over the course of the track, they achieve multiple successes.
Through the violent, murky, subterranean tumult of magma-like bass bubbling, battering percussion, voracious guitar frenzies, and bestial incantations, they reveal visions of chaos and corruption, and they do that in ways that exert a primal and primitive appeal.
Through eerie ambient movements and serpentine tendrils of dissonance, and a matching of slow, crawling rhythms with diseased tremolo boiling, they create an atmosphere of fathomless mystery and preternatural gloom. Flesh degrades, festers, and becomes dust, and the stench of its decay is a perfume in the nostrils of demonic entities — or so the music seems to tell us.
And while the song is creating these sensations of wild abandon and blood-congealing terror, it also succeeds in shaking the listener’s body like a rag doll in a convulsive rhythm. The mind reels, but the body moves. And those nearly 11 minutes seem to pass in the blink of an eye, leaving you blinking at the end, wondering where the hell you have been.
Malediction encompasses five long tracks and roughly 50 minutes of staggering sound. It was mixed and mastered by the band’s own VK, and it features incredible artwork by David S. Herrerias. It will be released by Debemur Morti Productions on October 13 (October 20 in North America).
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