Reviewed: Erdve – Vaitojimas
“The universe is a dark place. I’m trying to make it brighter before I die.”
– Thane Krios, Mass Effect 2
Post-hardcore seems to be in vogue, and Erdve are here to capitalize on it. Or to try to. A four-piece hailing from Lithuania and pitching themselves as “negative hardcore,” Erdve delivers on that slogan: over Vaitojimas’ six tracks and thirty-seven minute runtime, they build an atmosphere as inspiring and cheery as Soviet architecture. Harsh, bleak, and residing in a nauseous middle ground between despairing and resentful. It’s the aural equivalent of sitting hung over on a cloudy day in a parking lot filled with broken asphalt and used needles. Sounds promising, yeah? The issue is whether such a single-minded approach as Erdve shows is ultimately effective. Short answer: not as much as was hoped.
Dissonance and mid-paced chugs are the name of the game here, with hefty doses of sludge influence making themselves apparent throughout. Erdve have clearly listened carefully to Celeste and Indian, to name but two, attempting to fuse the suffocating aural assault of the latter with the more easily discernible rhythmic motifs of the former. Without doubt, they succeed admirably on the Indian front, ironically because their emulation of Celeste doesn’t quite work; Erdve’s rhythmic work is more uniform, the transitions less expressive, the overall tone as flatly insistent as a hammer on an anvil. The mix functions similarly: while it is clear and the vocals are well placed, neither too far back nor too forward, it’s a bit too loud and too flat. With everything pushed to the forefront and nothing behind it to engage the listener, one’s attention threatens to wane.
Their work is not without its strengths. Sludgy post-hardcore is, in the abstract and sometimes in practice, a tantalizing notion- capitalizing on sludge’s inherent ugliness while relying on hardcore sensibilities to keep it lean and mean. At its best, Vaitojimas nods back to 2014, what has been referred to as The Year of Hideous Sludge, in which we were graced with Lord Mantis’ Death Mask and Coffinworm’s IV.I.VIII, among others. It’s not as deliberate as either of the aforementioned and lacks their nuance and depth, but when it needs to beat you over the head it can do so with the best of them. Its penchant for sonic abuse well in hand, all that would seemingly remain is for Erdve to know what purpose that abuse should serve- to wit, how to make themselves interesting as well as punishing.
And they do get close. The first, and title, track is very promising, managing to build to a satisfying climax and adding a few extra leads toward the end to counter the monochrome chordal work. Similarly, the 3:45 transition on “Apvertkis” is initially well received, descending as it does into straight ahead 4-on-the-floor, and thus providing a welcome headbangable interlude for the listener. Yet it doesn’t go anywhere; it repeats with minimal variation just to the point of being boring, following which the track ends abruptly and without resolution. The following track is similarly short on imagination, content to repeat an admittedly pummeling riff ad nauseam, until the listener simply checks out. Initially good ideas with botched execution.
Don’t get me wrong; this is a fairly enjoyable listen. When it works, it really works; it can be crushing, it can be cathartic, it can evoke the hopelessness of a world where human decency has seemingly gone by the wayside. I’ve found myself coming back to the album more times, strangely, than my actual opinion would justify, and have a sneaking suspicion that it may be smarter than I’m giving it credit for. That said, the problem is not Erdve’s ability to evoke but to sustain. It is too long without enough standout moments to justify the dead weight. Trim the song length down, get rid of a few numbers, maybe try a split EP before an LP, whatever – but something’s gotta give. The way it currently stands, Erdve may very well have a promising career ahead of them; indeed, the prevailing sentiment post-listen is that Vaitojimas is brimming with potential. Yet like a gym rat who always skips leg day, it finds itself top-loaded with ambition while wobbly in fundamentals. You’ve got the right idea, Erdve, and nowhere to go but up. We hope.
3.5 / 5 Flaming Toilets In Which The Fecalized Hopes Of This World Are Immolated
Vaitojimas is out now on Season of Mist. Stream and order here.