|Cover art by Daniel Butler from Vastum.|
It seems sometimes like the death metal bands garnering the most praise are those pushing or breaking through the boundaries of their genres. And if you take a look at genre pioneers like Death and Autopsy that mentality has been around almost as long as death metal itself. But if you put the “brutal” qualifier in there expectations can get dumbed down a bit. Heavy chugging riff, solo that makes you turn to the guy next to you with a “You fucking hear that?!” look on your face, and some indecipherable growling. It's been covered. We're good. (Not that there's anything wrong with that).
But it doesn't have to be that way. Vastum know this and take brutal death metal to another place (as they have previously) on new album, Hole Below. They check all those aforementioned boxes (Leila Abdul-Rauf's solos especially) but it's all swallowed by a different breed of darkness and sinister atmosphere lead by vocalist Daniel Butler's cavernous growls and sexually charged lyrics.
Hole Below is fed by a primal energy tapping into those baser instincts. The riffs lay down a merciless beating with a tendency to throw in a gallop leading to rhythmic and purposeful headbanging urges that are impossible to deny. It's more than a mindless bodily function. Don't misunderstand, there's nothing wrong with giving yourself a good beating but this connects on a different wavelength and deep down a more satisfying level.
Track after track Vastum spread a vile and putrid filth of downtuned crunch aroused by an encapsulating atmosphere. It's undeniably OSDM-based but it feels more calculated and methodical rather than purely angry, hateful or posturing for effect.
Hole Below is at times creepy, other raw and others still driven by a certain madness yet never lets go of that muscular brutality. Given the nature of the lyrics it's not a stretch to imagine this providing the metronomic beat for partaking in sexual acts, depraved or otherwise. Although its terrifying nature and outright brutality sets a twisted mood.
Death metal in 2015 doesn't have to be mind-bogglingly technical or hybridized with any number of things. Vastum stick to the fundamentals and flesh out their primitive style of death metal keeping the animalistic intensity paramount. Hole Below is deeply satisfying and a crucial listen to be sure. Get (off) on it.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]