Vulgate EP by Vulgate
Active since 2005 and with many line up shifts, EP releases, genre flips and even a name change under their belt, East Sussex progressive death metallers Vulgate have certainly had a lot to contend with over the past couple of years since their official reformation in 2012. Flash forward to 2014 and you find the band in the backroom of The Railway playing to the Winchester metal mobs, all set to record their full length debut and with their latest, most relevant EP ripe for the picking. Having heard their sound, this reviewer could help but take a pick.
Opening with clear, yet foreboding simplicity, instrumental Transparence is nowhere near the sort of sound you’d expect from a band professing themselves as ‘progressive death’. Nevertheless, the multi layered guitar lines mesh and wash across you like a calming sea, lulling you into a tempting sense of security as the 1 minute track rises in preparation for follow up The Sickening Fanatical Mind.
The second salvo surges with a purposeful shred from Ben Taylor and Owen Weir on guitars underneath the ferocious, if a little underproduced, roars of vocalist/bassist William Brown. Where this band excels however, is their jarring shifts from one time signature to another as the song rises and falls through varying speeds and passages, overseen by intensely realised drumming from Owen Fowler, focusing the relentless energy of the piece into a sumptuous banquet of hidden gems. In between the thrash influenced shreds and deathly barks, the song often breaks into arpeggio heavy, multi layered guitar interplay between the two axemen which yield new delights with each listen. This is a song you can revisit any number of times and find something you’d never noticed each time and shows just how skilled the band are at diversely texturing their sound.
Third track Light In The Sky starts with great promise with a subdued opening riff bringing the bassline forward but almost feels as if it abandons this to quickly for it to really hook any impact. Treading a more straightforward Death Metal path than its more progressive predecessor, the song is sure to get heads truly banging with its Groove tinged stomp at the top and painfully slow, Doom dripping middle section. In the midst of all of this, another return to melodious instrumentalism runs the risk of rehashing Fanatical Mind’s triumph but manages to rely on its simplicity and bassline to differentiate effectively. Throwing in an almost neo-classical solo and another Doomy dirge to end, this isn’t the most mind blowing of Death Metal songs but would be one hell of an effective live arrow in any band’s quiver.
Building on the teases of neo-classical is mid EP instrumental Waves, which shows some serious technical skill from the band, both in composition and delivery. As the quick fingers dance their way across the fretboard over a gradually rising minor chords, the juxtaposition of simplicity and technicality blend into a pretty emotive soundscape which is neither overwrought nor under developed, ending perfectly at the 1:48 mark with beauty and style.
A return to the realms of Death is in order after such an experience and Waters of Judgement just so happens to be the perfect antidote. Rising from shuddering nothingness into marching dread, the noise which follows cuts with razor blade staccato from a biting snare and cymbal crashes to riffs leaving you on the edge of a precipice, dangling ready for the fall into full on thrashy madness. The solos have taken a few steps up this time round and leave your head in an absolute spin with the sheer skill of them but leave you no time to react before the riffs kick back in, pulverising you with help from Fowler’s breakneck drum pace and Brown’s angered roar like a demonic call to arms.
Choosing to add a demo version of Waves to finish does diminish the impact of Waters a tad, and feels slightly superfluous on a 5 track EP, but it’s an interesting showcase of the technical skill without the backing chords to mask the sound. I’m not the biggest fan of extra demos at the best of times so I’d be happy if the 5 tracks just remained as they were. That said, Waves is a triumph, and hearing it again without those chords does make you appreciate how something so simple can make such a difference.
Ultimately this is an EP of dichotomy, the worlds of Death Metal and Progressive crashing against one another and the choice trophies taken by the band from this war of sounds. At times it may not yet be fully realised but, when it is, this EP shows an enormous amount of promise for the debut album. In a musical world filled with bands dogmatically adhering to formula and genre, Vulgate have the skill to carve their own path through the murky night of noise and sound. When summer comes and the album is released, this could be one hell of a path to walk.
Find Vulgate at https://www.facebook.com/Vulgatethrash where you can purchase the EP
Vulgate’s as yet untitled debut album will be out Summer 2014