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The Vicious Head Society – Extinction Level Event Award winner

The Vicious Head Society
Extinction Level Event
by Tommy Mulhern at 13 August 2021, 3:26 PM

I just love it when I see a band take on a massive theme, their confidence to pay it justice is either comically delusional or measuredly brilliant. And especially when they tackle the monumental question of eschatology, another album about the death of us all could very well be the death of me. But, alas, step forward, Graeme Keane virtuoso guitar player, multi-instrumentalist, hell, just a flipping genius. He showed his credentials with his 2017 album “Abject Thoughts” where his levels of competence were a carrion call to the who’s who of prog rock. A cracking debut but there were parts of that album that grated me a bit, the production for one. But guys like Graeme never sit on their laurels, they are constantly looking to improve on every facet of their next project. So I’ll admit i went into the first listen of “Extinction Level Event” with a certain degree of assurance that this would be better than the previous album. And there isn’t a doubt in my mind now that it is.

There’s so much to admire on here, so many textures and flavours; from the gauntlet throw down of a 10 minute instrumental opener, to the balls to the wall rock sprinkled throughout to the guttural vocals of OVEROTH’s Andy Ennis to the well judged keyboards and soundscapes. Then there is, of course, the lashings and lashings of guitar solos and embellishments. It certainly is quite a heady mix but at no time does anything seem out of place. There is the obvious comparisons to be had of early Dream Theater on here but that’s only testimony to the fact that they made this genre what it is and its very hard for any prog metal band to escape this. Granted when Keane is showing off his array of techniques, particularly his slow string bending solos, John Petrucci does come to mind but taken as a complete package across the album he’s quite a unique player. I hear little nods to Neal Morse and Joe Satriani in here too, a pretty eclectic trio that not many guitarists can keep company with. As for other bands that come to mind, there are parts that in turn remind me of OPETHHAKEN and even TESSERACT. The drumming is another improvement, not sure if that’s down to production or what but it’s incredibly well structured and shapeshifts effortlessly with the changing styles.

Lyrically this album is just as smart as the music. Throughout we see how six different people deal with the impending doom, with such diverse characters as an estranged lover to a serial killer. Taking the time to not only come up with such a strong theme but to fill it out so believably shows another level of dedication. I only go back to another DreamTheater comparison here to make a point but i haven’t heard an album so lyrically and musically entertaining in equal parts since their 1999 “Metropolis part 2: Scenes From A Memory”.

It’s albums like this that remind you what progressive metal is all about. Yes, there might be some recurring templates and predictable box ticking but in the main it’s the sheer deluge of ideas that are used that makes you stand back in awe of the work that goes into a record of this quality. The music on “Extinction Level Event” is at once dramatic, intense, cinematic and inventive, the lyrics both poignant and introspective. If by some twist of fate the oceans do rise or the stars do fall or some dithering fool hits the big red button thinking it’s how he summons his nurse then at least we have found the music that will be piped out of the tannoys in our final hours. Maith tu mo chara.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Extinction Level Event
2. Solipsism
3. The Signal
4. Judgement
5. Throes of Despair
6. YP 138
7. On a Silver Thread
8. Absolution
9. Hymn of Creation 
Graeme Keane – Guitars & Keyboards
Klemen Markelj – Drums
Pat Byrne – Bass
Andy Ennis – Vocals
Nathan Maxx – Clean Vocals
Nahuel Ramos – Additional Keyboards
Record Label: Hostile Media


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Edited 26 November 2022

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