6th October 2017 – Pelagic Records
01. Hall Of Extinct Mammals
02. As Fools Ripen
04. Locust Christ
05. Butcher Birds
07. A Tiger Moth´s Shadow
08. Judas Steer
09. Bestial Beginnings
10. The Worms Lament
11. Gods Of Ruin
In case you were wondering, the word ‘vestigial’ relates to things that are either a fragment of what they once were, or things that have withered or atrophied through lack of use. Like the wings of flightless birds. On that information alone, you may well think that Lo!‘s third album is a shy, retiring, meek and mild affair. But you would be very wrong.
It’s been a little over four years since Lo! released promising second album Monstorium Historia, and – probably unsurprisingly – there have been some changes in the interim. Vocalist Jamie-Leigh Smith left the band just after they ventured to Europe from their native Australia for the first time, and he was replaced with Sam Dillon. Sam’s debut outing was the 2015 EP The Tongueless, so he is now as firmly installed as anyone could be.
With the change of singer comes a slight shift in direction, so while the energy levels remain high, there’s less of a hardcore vibe and more of what we might describe as ‘blackened sludge’, if that is a thing. Let’s say it is. Sam is more of a screecher than a bellower, and whilst it might not be the most obvious pairing on paper, it has resulted in the most compelling collection of songs from the band to date.
Vestigial is particularly well balanced between uptempo bangers and slower, grinding tracks – with an interlude or two thrown in for good measure. In a neat little touch, introductory track “Hall of Extinct Mammals” contains echoes of the outro from the final track on The Tongueless. First ‘proper’ track after the introduction, “As Fools Ripen“, sees the band place a lead foot on the accelerator with a particularly tasty passage alternating between single-note and thicker riffs.
Indeed, whatever the tempo on Vestigial, some meaty riffage is never far away. There are hints of Mastodon and early The Ocean lurking in their distinctive sonic mix, which is given some extra heft thanks to Adrian Shapiro’s positively filthy bass tone. There are moments, especially on “Locust Christ” where Adrian Griffin’s drumming heads towards blast beat territory, but it is more for emphasis, with the root remaining a rock-solid groove. “A Tiger Moth’s Shadow” is mid-paced and predatory, whilst “The Worm’s Lament” showcases that big, rumbling bass tone, accented with shards wrung from Carl Whitbread’s guitar.
“Ghosts of Ruin” rounds out Vestigial in a similar stomping fashion to “As Fools Ripen“, and its always a pleasant surprise to see an album go out with a bang rather than a whisper of atmospherics. And that characterises Vestigial as a whole – the progression in Lo!’s sound is likely to please old fans and new, and does so without obviously jumping on any bandwagons. Distinctive and engaging throughout, Vestigial is indeed a pleasant surprise – albeit the gnarliest pleasant surprise you’re likely to have this year.