Vastum – Hole Below

(20 Buck Spin, 2015)

Vastum has for a long time been a very special band to me. Their style of slow old-school Death Metal really caught my attention after hearing their first release “Carnal Law”, with slight elements from Crust Punk and strong deep psychological and philosophical themes (inspired for example by the work of Georges Bataille) spicing their already awesomely crafted and performed art. Putting this album on, I hadn’t been as excited of any new music in a long time.

The first song “Sodomitic Malevolence” begins with a weird intro of clanking noises and echoing speech (reminding me a bit of the intro of Samael’s classic “Blood Ritual” in its atmosphere), before transforming into classic slow Vastum, fucking Death Metal. The trademark low tremolo riff and a slow beat with fast double bass might bring to mind for someone bands like Necros Christos, but to me Vastum has always sounded like Vastum, unique. It’s great to find not much has changed in the band’s sound and style (except for the more reverberating vox). The speeches from the intro guide the song a bit further into more technical riffing and drumming, and as the growling/screaming vocals enter the picture, we are there, in chthonic Death Metal heaven. The song ends in an acoustic outro, adding to the ominous atmosphere of the band.

The vocals by Dan and Leila have always worked together perfectly, creating a truly morbid and macabre atmosphere with the rest of the instruments, and as the second song “Amniosis” begins with a few riffs so awesome and Deathly as possible within the borders of this kind of old-school stuff, I cannot but be reminded again of the magnificence of this band. The band’s Crust and Hardcore background can be heard in a few parts of the song, not too evidently, but you can tell it’s there (at least in my ears).

The third song “In Sickness And In Death” slows the pace down into classic Bolt Throwerish speed. The great authentic-sounding production of the album can be heard clearly in the guitars and for example ride-sounds, specially in the beginning of the song. There are a few more technical riffs by the middle of the song, which sound cool without losing the trademark feeling of the band. The awesome leads and higher riffs from the guitars have their moments as well in this song.

The fourth song “Intrusions” takes all the elements of the previous songs and manages yet again to craft something unique-sounding (song-wise) from the same ingredients using the same recipe. Of course every musician creating art within certain strict borders know the difficulties of creation when it comes to the material (especially if forced), but with Vastum it has always seemed the riffs just flow from them naturally and easily. The reverberating church-like vocals form the intro can once again be heard, making theme one of the clear themes of the album.

The fifth song “Hole Below” is perhaps the most intense so far, not because of speed or battery, but the fierce certain repetition and groove of key-riffs and hellish vocals. Once again the band shows you don’t have to use too much technicality or other “gimmicks” to create multifaceted atmospheres with your chosen style. The sixth song “Empty Breast” finishes the album in an epic manner (having almost “Folkish” melodies in some of the riffs), being the longest of the songs (with a cool noisy outro with brassy sounds), while containing all the best elements of Vastum, showing song arrangement is one of the great talents of this band.

In conclusion, this album is old-school Death Metal of such quality (composition, performance, and production-wise), every open-minded music lover with appreciation for the style in question must obtain this album. Hard to imagine getting any better than this. Despite all the setbacks during their career, the future of the band looks better than ever, if this album tells anything of their dedication, enthusiasm, imaginativeness, and mutual chemistry. Only Death is real.

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