May 14, 2017

Vastum - Carnal Law

Vastum's Carnal Law is great old-school sounding Death Metal, but it is also more than that. Let's start with the music; the esteemed Full Metal Attorney tells a tale:

San Francisco, 1993: A few of guys see Autopsy play, trade bootleg Incantation tapes, and hear a rote description of My Dying Bride's As the Flower Withers (without actually hearing the album itself). They get piss-drunk, buy some time at a studio, and lay down six primitive, raw, doomy death metal tracks. After making and selling a dozen copies, they lose the master tape, and the erstwhile band just sort of fades into nonexistence ... Eighteen years later, a savvy construction worker with a Possessed tattoo finds a copy while tearing down a condemned apartment building.

The music is tightly executed, and the solos are like little sharp bursts of laser light. The dual growls of Daniel Butler and Leila Abdul-Rauf are terrific. As Cosmo Lee noted: "Vastum may have the first male-female vocal pairing that does not divide roles along gender lines."

Photo by Taylor Keahey.

The music of Vastum is deathly goodness for sure while, as the Full Metal Attorney tale also hints at, not being overly original. What does make the band stand out is the psycho sexuality of the lyrics, like this bit from "Re-Member"

Left the penis with my Father
A womb with my mom
Heart with my Mother
Exogamous laws…

This post has been updated with the remastered version of Carnal Law. Giving me a chance to add a quote from a recent interview with Leila and Daniel - lest you think the lyrics are meant as some sort of banal provocation

Leila: In my lyrics, I’m not referring to sexual perversion per se, but perversion of societal law, and the complex and unconscious sexual dynamics of relationships in conflict, and the shame, pain or horror attached to them. These complexities weave a web of codependency and confusion that blurs, or shifts, the imbalance of power—the dichotomy between one in power and one in a place of powerlessness. In this context, there is no advantage or disadvantage to either position, just an endless war-like nightmare of cyclical emotional pain.

Their music may be death, but lyrics are very much about life. Twisted sexual life, but life nonetheless. Death metal songs about about "bruised carnal melancholy" (again quoting Mr. Lee); it is appropriate that Vastum is latin for "empty" or "deserted"...

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