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Vampire - Rex Award winner

by Chris Hawkins at 21 July 2020, 2:04 PM

I’ve always maintained that there must be something in the water in Sweden that imbues its Heavy Metal devotees with a unique prowess capable of true innovation.  VAMPIRE is no exception.  Started in 2011 and hailing from the historically prominent epicenter of Gothenburg, they have now released their third full-length, “Rex,” via Century Media.  The album is nothing short of stunning with a fully realized vision enhanced by flawless execution.  Theirs is a blend of the melodic nuances of fellow Swedes such as DISSECTION and AT THE GATES custom tailored with a reverence for classic Heavy Metal and colored with their preternatural aesthetic.

The intro, “Prelusion,” is a mood-setting affair like lighting ornate black candles in anticipation of the coming ritual.  It is an opening convocation, one meant to properly set one’s inner focus on a vision of mist, the faint smell of sage, and an abiding feeling of alchemical mystery.  The title track follows immediately.  It is hard to resist the fury enshrouded in the ensuing Transylvanian Thrash/Death Metal/Black Metal décor.  The guitars alternate between expansive chords and dueling harmonies.  The Thrash level is powerfully rotate clockwise at the 1:24 mark which unleashes a celebratory sensation bidding the listener to worship at the throne of Heavy Fucking Metal.  The solo is short, sweet, and functions more as a transitional moment than an exposé of mindless wankery.  It is a lean 3:08 offering, but the combination of driving intensity and those brief vocal acrobatics in the form of KING DIAMOND-esque shrieks scattered throughout and punctuating key moments of catharsis show a band realizing its shared vision.

When the third track, “Inspiritus,” gets rolling, the old school Heavy Metal fires are blazing highest.  Following the visceral release of the first track is a more straight-forward, dare I say mid-tempo offering.  One element certainly setting it apart from anything remotely predictable is the furious snare attack in which the ending of each measure in the verse section is accented by a light-speed snare blast.  Judiciously knowing when to keep things in the pocket and when to enter blitzkrieg assault mode is what separates the wheat from the chaff.

This is an album that showcases a stellar performance from all involved.  The bass is a perfect first angle to examine.  Finally, after decades of being buried in most mixes from within Metal, proper attention is being devoted to the low-end dwellers as evidenced by the performance captured here.  It is dialed in at just the right frequency so as to give it equal footing with the treble clef dwellers without drowning anyone out or sounding flubby.  It is presented with its own custom seat at the round table with suffrage and equal rights to boot.  Vocally, the DISSECTION influence is readily apparent but there are some moments as detailed previously that display the type of vocal acrobatics that owe more to the classics; indeed, if only those moments were explored more.  Why limit the scope?  Let the man have his HALFORD moments – and more of them!  Both guitars exhibit lethal, articulate tone and are blended to perfection.

While there are moments where it seems every available sonic space is filled, the sound never approaches the cluttered, exhausting effect that can often be the case.  There is a delicate balance maintained between looming, predatory chords and bursts of rapid melodic lines.  Thus, a menagerie of sonic endeavor is created that thrives from a solid foundation and instrumental freedom to elaborate as needed or inspired to.  The hero of the day, though, is ABYSMAL CONDOR, the percussionist extraordinaire.  This is the very definition of a commanding performance.  Naturally, it all begins with tone and this is one that is both felt and heard in the classic LOMBARDO sense.  The bass drum has a focused attack yet thrives from a natural ambience and well-rounded tone.  That sublimely engineered sound serves as the launching pad for the man’s unquenchable thirst for innovation.  Myriad cymbal flourishes, an insane poly-rhythmic snare assault, and explosive tom rolls round out the arsenal for the percussive assault battery.

As the album plays through, one becomes mesmerized if not indoctrinated.  Truly, there are too many tantalizing highlights to illuminate in the scope of this review.  The seventh track, “Rekviem,” deserves mentioning with its haunting use of keyboards perfectly closing out a relentless three minutes and twenty-six seconds.  “Serafim” follows showcasing what is perhaps the most technically ambitious performance while “Anima,” the ninth song, lays out an irresistible groove encompassing a plethora of chilling and powerful moments.

Often, albums lately either feel like collections of random songs lacking continuity or are overblown, self-indulgent chores to get through.  VAMPIRE, though, succeed by creating an album in the way of the heroes of old.  There is persistence, instrumental integrity, a shared vision, and the album abides with a degree of elite polish showing these guys have truly done their homework.  “Rex” is certainly a prodigious effort, one of the most impressive this year that should not be missed!

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Prelusion
2. Rex
3. Inspiritus
4. Wirru-Akka
5. Pandemoni
6. Moloch
7. Rekviem
8. Serafim
9. Anima
10. Melek-Taus
Command - Bass
Hand of Doom –Vocals
Sepulchral Condor - Guitars
Abysmal Condor – Drums
Black String – Guitars
Record Label: Century Media Records


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