[5th February 2013]
[Horror Pain Gore Death Productions]
01. Terra Soar
02. Carve My Eyes
03. Astride A Grave
04. No Such Thing
05. Spectral Nation
06. Away From The Sun
07. Wasteland (How Long Ago…)
08. Solace In Sleep
09. Those Days Are Gone
10. A Drinking Song
One can never be too careful with labeling sub-genres of metal, because occasionally you can end up with an entirely different entity to the one you were anticipating. This time round it was Texan extreme metallers Vex and their sophomore release Memorious; being unversed in their début Thanatopsis, Metal Archives led me to believe they were a death-thrash outfit. What in fact greeted my ears was a mishmash of genres vaguely united under the extreme metal banner, and it took a while for the influences to sift out. Unfortunately, once an influence is ousted, it is nigh impossible to unhear it for the three-quarter-hour runtime.
First up is the six-minute number entitled “Terra Soar”, which quickly introduces the most prominent influence: later-era Rotting Christ with a touch of Primordial - although reaching neither of those in the quality of the riffs. The drumming is most prominent; a rumble of snares and cymbals that overpowers everything except for Joe Jackson‘s mid-level rasp and brutal growls that pepper each track. In addition, the guitars are fairly dry in tone, making them even harder to detect. All of this is wrapped in a fairly demo-like production that does few favors for the equalizer levels. Miraculously, in a rare occurrence for extreme metal, the bass is cranked high, becoming almost as audible as the guitar, as both weave through thrashy riffs and tremolos, the song seemingly unable to choose one genre to stick to. This trend continues through the catchy and blackened melodies of “Carve My Eyes” which goes through bursts of blasts until we reach the first interlude-intersection, “Astride A Grave”.
Interludes play a strange role in Memorious, not only providing relief from the blackened-death-thrash rumble, but also providing indication that the sound is about to shift somewhat drastically. “Astride A Grave” is an eyebrow-raiser, sounding remarkably sludgy, while “Solace In Sleep” is a high-reverb but irrelevant minute. “Away From The Sun”, a pretty acoustic instrumental, segues smoothly into “Wasteland (How Long Ago…)” – the most interesting song on the album – as it shifts through groove and chug, laced with melody, to drop off into a British-accented reading of the T.S. Eliot poem from which the song derives its title.
Vex’s influences are not only worn on their sleeves, but pretty much all over the jackets: latter-day Rotting Christ plays the largest role in their sound, and those more familiar with this output can quickly piece together the exact moments. The most unadulterated homage comes in the form of “Spectral Nation”, which sounds hauntingly similar to “Thou Art Lord” (featuring Nemtheanga of Primordial) from Aealo, down to the clean vocals and mid-tempo melodic black riffing. There are other points of reference, such as the more chugging death metal moments in “No Such Thing”, or the nasal clean vocals in the grooving “Those Days Are Gone”, but every so often Vex return to the two above-mentioned bands as a main compass-point. Final track “A Drinking Song” is the lone soldier in this respect, somehow shifting into a rousing Bathory-esque Viking metal number about, unsurprisingly, alcohol.
Despite Memorious being a solid show of musicianship, this constant referencing takes a knock to the band’s authenticity, and ultimately becomes a barrier to enjoyment if you are familiar with the reference points. The band’s attempts to branch out are still a little underdeveloped and seem forced, but they are nonetheless appreciated to avoid completely imitating their influences. With the direction Vex are going, it seems evident that they will provide a much more coherent release third time round.