Vehement are an extreme metal / black metal band from East Sussex on the south coast of England. Ashes released in October of last year is their second full length album. Recorded by Dave Archer at Tidal Force Studio. Released on 6 October 2017.
“Far below us” (track 1) opens the album with the gentle sound of what appears to be the wind blowing through a pop-shield and a crackling fire. Then comes the sudden barrage of metal. It’s a fairly typical black metal song: thrashing guitars, pneumatic drill drums and growling vocals. It contains a few nice melodic moments and guitar flourishes before changing pace about two-thirds of its way in which really lifts the song from what could have been a rather pedestrian black metal romp into something with character and dynamics.
“Ashes” (track 2) flows straight out of the previous track with a strummed clean guitar pattern. The guitar tone reminds me of early, Paul Di’anno-era Iron Maiden. It doesn’t last long, though as a galloping mid-paced wall of sound drives itself through the first half of the song. It’s one of my favourite moments of the album—listening to the drums beat out the rhythm while the guitars swirl around and pull in new elements. The remainder of the song ebbs and flows until a sorrowful guitar solo leads the song to a rather unexpected and gentle conclusion.
Another seamless transition. “Carapace” (track 3) is a rather delicate and beautiful finger-picked song.
“Thematic” (track 4) returns us to the main programme with a thundering, slowed down wall of guitars and drums. The main riff is a very simple five note pattern that’s not too far from the spaceship theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind! In what is evidently becoming Vehement’s MO, the song changes direction halfway through. Cookie Monster vocals scream over a mid-paced chord pattern and arpeggio that takes the song back to its roots.
“Burden’s root” (track 5) opens with a jangling clean guitar. It has something of early Opeth about it. This leads to a descending chord pattern and then a fairly standard death/black metal stomp through some chord changes and hollered vocals. But there is something wonderful about it. It twists and turns, changes direction here and there, Xysor’s operatic vocals are majestic and the guitar solo is haunting. What could have been a fairly dry and unimaginative black metal song now has colour and interest.
The two longest tracks on the album are left to the end, the 9 minutes 37 seconds song “The turn of the passage” (track 6) and “Tidal verse” (track 7) which clocks in at 10 minutes 38 seconds. “The turn of the passage” has a nice drum section about two-thirds of the way through when the song slows down and the guitars belt out power chords. “Tidal verse” nails its colours to the mast straight away with its fast-paced, buzzing opening riff. But like many songs before it, about halfway through, the song grinds to a halt and mutates into slow, reverb-heavy guitar chimes over rumbling toms.
This is an album that somewhat took me by surprise. I’ve listened to too many dull, black-metal-by-numbers albums over the years, and my fear was that this would be another. I’ve said more than once in reviews that all I really ask beyond basic musical competence is something interesting. Give me a reason to listen again and again. Give me hooks to listen out for. Give me twists and changes of direction that make me sit up and take notice.
There isn’t anything particularly revolutionary about this album—Vehement play authentic, straight-up black metal but they do it well and with enough variation and ideas thrown into each song to keep me coming back.
Review score: 80%
I kindly received this album to review from The Origin Agency press team an artist management, consultancy and booking agency based in Brighton UK. I didn’t get paid for this review but I do get to the keep the album (thank you!). I am not linked to either Vehement or The Origin Agency.