Death metal’s legacy of gore and horror movie effects is a vast one. Death is often considered the first “true” death metal band and their debut album, Scream Bloody Gore pretty much set the tone by title alone. Even if other proto-death metal acts like Possessed or Celtic Frost didn’t lather their lyrics in blood and guts there were enough bands that came immediately after them to ensure a history of proverbially exposed entrails. Much like the horror movie industry though death metal, and really metal in general, has realized that as much fun as it can be to gross your mom out with album covers featuring all sorts of cartoon-like atrocities no one really buys the authenticity of it. As great as a band like Carcass still is today, if you truly want to freak people out these days and get them to keep the lights on at night you need to get into their heads. This is exactly where San Francisco’s Vastum excel.
Vastum’s sophomore full-length, Patricidal Lust, is a pretty brutal affair and that’s before you ever step foot into the somewhat traumatizing lyrical world that they’ve concocted. California will one day be looked upon in the same light as the UK and other regions of the world for their amazing output of doom metal and all the crazy ways that the left coast has been able to bastardize doom in the best ways possible. Vastum has been able to successfully incorporate various elements of other genres, specifically doom into their brand of death metal and their locale probably had something to do with it. You can hear it in the meticulously heavy opening riff and coinciding passages on the track, “Incel” for example. It’s those type of sludgy variations throughout the album though that help build the atmosphere that Vastum is going for – one of fear, pain, and self-loathing. There’s also an element of the old ways here that give this band a timeless sense to their sound. There are so many ways this band has been able to capture the greatness of those earliest days of death metal when a lot of what death metal bands were doing was so fresh and completely non-formulaic.
Track titles like “Repulsive Arousal”, “3 AM In Agony”, and the title track give you an immediately clear picture about what type of territory Vastum are treading in. Rehashing specific lyrics isn’t necessary here, although highly recommended to get the full effect. This band has a lot to say and what they are saying is uncomfortable at best and downright nightmare-inducing at worst. Overall it’s an eye-opening look at eroticism in it’s worst possible forms, a macabre twist to a story that too many bands were stuck writing in unrealistic horror movie like narratives. Maybe that’s the key to this band’s success – realism. Vastum continuously put the listener in places they’d really rather not ever be. Death metal in general has always attempted to have this torture chamber quality to it. But Vastum actually take you to their psychological version and it’s not a pretty site at all. Add a soundtrack that is equally as harsh and abrasive as their subject matter and Vastum have put together one of the most oft-putting releases of the year. By the end of this record you’ll feel almost guilty for liking it so much.
Patricidal Lust is out now on 20 Buck Spin. You can stream the entire album over at Invisible Oranges.