(DGR reviews the new EP by Polish extreme metal veterans Vader, which will be released on May 31st by Nuclear Blast.)
It doesn’t feel that long ago that we were musing on the idea, prompted by Vader’s previous EP Iron Times — prior to the full-length The Empire in 2016 — that the group’s habit of putting out an EP just before an album release often served as excellent preview of where the long-running Polish death-metal/thrash-metal group’s head-space was currently at, and what sort of album we might be getting from them soon after.
It’s a serious consideration with Vader, because unlike many other death/thrash hybrids the group often aren’t a hardcore fusion of genres, where elements from both are clearly recognizable all the time. Vader have two methods of operation: They can actually be a full-blown thrash band, or a fully furious death metal band. When they mix the two, they often lean hard into one side. When they are in a full-on thrash mood, it is like they could’ve easily headed the genre as a whole, and when they go for the blast-furnace style of death metal played at high pace, it seems like they could do the same thing there.
Iron Times let us know that the group were leaning heavily into their thrash side for the then-upcoming The Empire. Although they have announced that they’re aiming for early next year to follow their latest EP Thy Messenger, it seems the tentatively titled …And Then There Will Only Be Pain will lean heavily in the other direction, giving more prominence to the realms of the previously mentioned blast-heavy death metal.
Although it’s probably to be expected from Vader, it’s still a pleasant surprise every time these guys release something and it manages to rip a listener’s face off within the first few minutes. “Grand Deceiver” does just that as one of the most “no bullshit” songs on an EP whose modus operandi is “no bullshit”. The whole songwriting impetus of “Grand Deceiver” is the sort-of say what needs to be said and get the fuck out style that results in a slightly-over-two-minute blasting thrasher of a song.
“Grand Deciver” is a stunning opening assault that just pours so much on, from an unrelenting guitar-and-drum barrage, to a near-endless well of guitar solos and multiple vocal approaches that it could easily make listeners get whiplash from the double-take that happens when they glance over and realize that it’s only been two minutes and fourteen seconds.
The newly recorded version of “Litany” expands upon that, built around a hefty gallop in its opening segment and keeping things on the thrashier side of the spectrum, though the buzzing death metal guitar that is right at the front of the mix keeps things suitably heavy while the lyrics list off a multitude of insults in rapid fashion.
The two-fer of “Emptiness” and “Despair” fly by blindingly fast, as “Emptiness” brings back the sub-three-minute songwriting style and “Despair” decides to one-up it by just barely leaping over the one-minute mark. They may be the most purpose-driven thrash-death songs out there, though the thrashier guitar writings of “Emptiness” and the solid-stomp that is the drumming segment behind it may hint at why the group have a cover of Judas Priest‘s “Steeler” in the ranks of Thy Messenger‘s tracklisting, itself a remarkably on-point cover.
It’s probably a weird thing to say that “Emptiness” is the song with the most forward-driving grooves of the three new songs present here, especially considering that opening guitar solo, but the song shifts gears into the aforementioned solid stomping rhythm pretty fast after it opens before spiraling into a hefty double-bass-roll segment that is geared for circle-headbanging.
“Despair” on the other hand, doesn’t even really give itself time to have multiple grooves. “Despair” is Vader circle pits turned into song, built on one heavy and driving thrash riff and then exploding outward from there. “Despair” almost never lets up, and honestly, were it not for how “Emptiness” closes out and how suddenly “Despair” makes its appearance, you’d think the songs had just blended into one final conflagration.
Vader’s method of releasing an EP as a taste of things to come prior to their album releases is one of the more exciting things about the band, because even the quick three-to-four song check-in’s from the band and their varied combinations of covers, new takes on old history, and newer songs, can add to an already stacked collection of awesome tracks. Thy Messenger does that again. With the death metal side of the band given more prominence alongside the group’s long-running thrash leanings and their strategy of carving away any sort of fat whatsoever, the result is one of the most tightly-packed EPs out there.
None of the group’s newer songs clear the three-minute mark, feeling like quick and violent explosions with absolutely no wandering anywhere within them, and the longest song on Thy Messenger turns out to be the cover song. The whole of Thy Messenger is only around fourteen minutes. Yet, what a ferocious fourteen minutes it is, a blinding assault from front-to-back that so easily lends itself to the ‘just one more time’ listening style that you can get lost within that whirling maelstrom of circle-pit guitar work and blast-heavy drumming. Like its EP predecessor, Iron Times, Thy Messenger can’t help but leave one excited for the next album if this is what Vader’s initial offering sounds like.