Enter Vacivus’ Temple Of The Abyss
In a year positively overflowing with solid death metal releases, Temple Of The Abyss is the strongest orthodox DM album I’ve heard so far. What puts this particular album above all the others? Answer #6 may shock you!
Ever since first hearing Vacivus on their 2015 EP Rite Of Ascension, I was enthralled with their darkened take on the kind of traditional 90’s death metal sound; characterised by thick tri-tone-traipsing tremolo riffs, pounding bass, organic-sounding drums, sporadic solos, and roaring mid-range vocals. You know, all the good shit. And while the five tracks found on that release made for an addictive 20-something minute headbanging session, I wondered if they’d ever be able to replicate that kind of consistent quality across a full-length album. After the two song follow-up Nuclear Chaos, we were again left wondering whether we’d be given main course to indulge on. Well, it’s time to grab your knife and fork then proceed to throw them in the trash, as you’ll want to use your filthy fucking hands to jam as much of this meaty monstrosity as you can into your head at once.
Mmmmmmmm…tasty isn’t it? Immediately you’ll hear that these bastards* have not forgotten how to riff. The track you’re hearing (“Oubliette”) is essentially the equivalent of being air-dropped into the front-line moments after battle has begun. The album proper begins with a brief introductory track which merely portends to the ensuing chaos. Eerie struck tones, distant bar-dive squeals, maniacal laughter, and sinister whispers shift and swirl around amid the musty mist that clings to your clammy skin. Similar to the interludes on Temple Nightside‘s most recent offering, this ambient track serves as a welcome addition to the album’s atmosphere, rather than something ham-fistedly shoehorned in, like a critic who links previous album reviews any time he’s reminded of a certain sonic equivalent. The aptly titled “Premonitions” segues seamlessly into “Towards Infinite Chasms”, and from that moment onwards, Temple Of The Abyss never looks back.
If you’re familiar with the band’s prior work, the first thing you might notice is that the clomping bass sound has been ratcheted up a little tighter in the mix, while still audible at all times, it is not as prominent as before. In fact, this is somewhat analogous to the album’s overall production. The drums are slightly snappier and the guitars have a bit more bite, their leads a little sharper, no doubt thanks to the (recording/mixing) handiwork of Greg Chandler of the legendary UK enigmas Esoteric. And while there aren’t an abundance of solos to found on Temple Of The Abyss, the ones that do bubble up to the surface are quality. Whether it be an off-the-wall atonal assault akin to those of countrymen Cruciamentum‘s style, or as is more often the case, a repeating lead lick similar to those adorning Engulfed‘s recent debut, Vacivus’ guitarists are adept at bringing both the heat and the spice.
Now, vocals in death metal (or metal in general, for that matter) are not something I devote much attention to these days. And after a decade’s worth of unremarkable performances consisting nearly exclusively of monotone growls, you begin to ignore them completely. Save for those extreme deviations from the standard, where the frontman (let’s face it, they’re almost always some no-neck neanderthal, cave ladies where you at?) tries something unique and fails miserably. Offering either a noise akin to a blocked sewerage pipe or a strangled stray cat, this gimmicky shite can straight-up ruin albums. After a few of these cringe-worthy attempts, you start to hope for a “safe” performance. However, I’m pleased to say that on Temple Of The Abyss, vocalist Nick showcases some very welcome vocal versatility. Deftly mixing some of the murkiness of black metal into the death metal landscape, he gives an impassioned and intimidating performance. Alternating between bellowing vitriol and barking marshalling orders that would no doubt whip a caucus of demons into a hellish frenzy, this is as convincing as it gets.
The combination of the cryptic sounding clean guitars, tribal percussion, and cult-like choral chanting during the intro of album centrepiece “Black Flame Serpent” shows the band experimenting beyond what we’ve previously heard from them to great effect. The feedback loop of intensity culminates with a slightly abrupt ending, but this momentum is immediately recovered by “Filii Inferos” (the second embedded track above). The album concludes with the title track, which may just be the darkest song the band have penned to date. Overall, Temple Of The Abyss expands on the baseline sound displayed on their EP’s without going overboard and overplaying their hand. The album has an excellent flow throughout its near 40 minute run-time. Vacivus achieve this not through predictable changes but rather via astute song-crafting. One minute you’re cracking open the lid on a forgotten tomb only to be greeted by a cacophonous swarm of unbridled turmoil, the next you’re trudging along with a chain-gang trapped in the pits of hell itself. If my recommendation wasn’t adequate, check out what G.M from Barshasketh had to say about the band in the first edition of our new Friday Guest List column.
Temple Of The Abyss receives 4.5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Also for our UK readers be sure to catch Vacivus on tour with Barshasketh in September. While it’s not listed on this exact flyer image I’m fairly certain Úir are playing on the Edinburgh and Newcastle dates as well. Get amongst it!