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Vrenth – Baptism Death

Vrenth
Baptism Death
by Brian Lowrie at 29 December 2020, 1:45 PM

There is a bit of a finesse required to stand out in the now somewhat saturated realm of cavernous sounding death metal; this new wave of death is known for dialing the technicality back a couple of notches in favor of looming guitar passages and mostly low-dominant vocals (ie Tomb Mold). However, infusing this subgenre with the ethereal overtones of black metal has breathed new life into this trend, as evidenced by the new release from Southern California’s Vrenth. This is an album that takes the blasting intensities of death metal and gives them a distinctly menacing edge that isn’t overbearing or abrasive to the listener, yet exhibits a rather hook-laden songwriting style that will stay in your head for a long while.

From the album’s intro, “Graveyard Of Lost Souls”,  it’s clear that they were aiming for the throat from the get-go. The cryptic introduction sample quickly goes for the throat and doesn’t ease up during its runtime, ensuring it’s more reluctant tempos are adding on the sense of unease. This foreboding sense of dread is continued in “In The Wasteland Dwell”, where the focus is shifted towards hopelessness. Even when the tempos pick back up, it becomes near-impossible to shake the feeling of being watched, as the guitars usage of tremolo picking single notes packs on the ambiance. “Paroxysm Darkness” is one of the more old-school death metal-inspired tracks on the record, with guitar harmonies during the solo sections and more groove oriented riffs throughout. This track could have easily been the second single-release for this album, as it has a certain swagger that’s infectious, fun and mean-sounding. “Rapture Of The Empty Space” is a track that really cakes on the reverberated production values, adding to the atmosphere for this aptly-named song. The sudden change in intesity in the last half of the song was a welcome surprise, along with the other  shift into clean guitars for the closing section. It’s really interesting to see the band express their musicianship properly, whilst weaving through the stylistic offerings previously presented in the album.

“Baptism Death” is a bit of a palette cleanser from the void-like previous track, returning to a more straight-forward sound that focuses on either being really fast or really heavy. While it isn’t any less good than tracks like “Graveyard of Lost Souls”, the idea of further experimentation from “Rapture” feels more intriguing, and “Baptism Death” feels like too safe of a bet. “Raging Blood Rivers” fixes this by kicking off with some peculiarly-measured riffs which return from time to time, with lots of drone-like death metal segments in between. One thing to note on this track is the drum work, which seems to alter at the drop of a hat but never being too capricious or unsuiting. In a genre where the drums have pretty set-in-stone expectations, I can always appreciate when a drummer can break his own mold and show off his/her capabilities. This is a nice contrast to “Burial Crypt”, where the even flow of the rhythmic guitars takes precedence, with the drums closely following their leads. The big, open spaces return in this track, yet feel a little more ritualistic and bleak than before. This would have been a good track to hear some vocal variations as well, but the monotonous growl that has become commonplace throughout the album doesn’t ever falter; they may serve their purpose, but again, it would have been nice to hear a little more branching out. Sure,”Flames Of The Seven Jaws” sees a little more range from the vocalist, but the melodic lead guitars are clearly the center of attention here, creating dizzying auras that seems to come to an overtly abrupt end.

It’s not very often that I become a little disinterested in an album past the halfway point, but to sound like a broken record, there were some concepts in this album that needed expansion. One of the things that made tracks like “Rapture” work was that it dared to branch out, but not too far for it to feel out of place from the rest of the album. I understand this can be difficult to replicate 7 more times throughout an album, but the latter half of the album just seemed to sit quietly within its own limitations. With that being said, Vrenth are on what I believe to be the right track; the music itself is something that I found myself enjoying to varying degrees, and it was fun to hear something that’s been done a million times over be done with a dark new twist to it.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Production: 8
Memorability: 8


4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Graveyard of Lost Souls
2. In The Wasteland Dwell
3. Paroxysm Darkness
4. Rapture Of The Empty Space
5. Baptism Death
6. Raging Blood Rivers
7. Burial Crypt
8. Flames Of The Seven Jaws (Devouring Funeral Pyre)
Lineup:
SN – Bass
CK – Drums
CLR – Guitars
RMB – Guitars
NM – Vocals
Record Label: Rotted Life Records
     


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