In 2013 San Francisco’s Vastum released their sophomore opus, Patricidal Lust, and firmly planted themselves in the discussion as to who was the heaviest, nastiest death metal band in the world. Fast forward almost two full years and Vastum have returned with an album that may permanently tilt the proverbial scales in their favor, if not even end the discussion completely.
The death metal landscape today is an interesting one. It’s a long highway filled with pot holes and shitty truck stops sandwiched in between amazingly fascinating destinations where you should have no problem giving all your money away. Survive the slop being served in one locale and the next one you reach could be an absolute treasure trove of some of the darkest and most interesting music in existence. There’s almost no middle ground anymore. On one hand is the cavalcade of over-produced, bastard children of metalcore being passed off as death metal, while on the other hand are a faction of bands doing their best to throw the genre back in time to the early 90s when death metal was a unique and exhilarating genre. Vastum are among the latter, and one of the best of this crop of nasty, gritty bands that like their death metal ugly – the way it was meant to be played.
Vastum’s newest release, Hole Below, is a thunderous display. It’s a churning, bubbling cauldron of riffs and sheer brutality that emits the same pungent fumes that have been belched into the atmosphere by bands like Obituary, Autopsy, and Bolt Thrower. Every track is a mini-masterpiece in the realm of atmospheric violence, its sole purpose to bludgeon anything and everything standing in the way. Vastum don’t write death metal to flaunt some technical wankery. They certainly don’t do it to write music that’s accessible to the masses of kids stumbling into a Hot Topic for the first or fiftieth time. This is tense and vicious death metal written to to give pause to anyone thinking that life might be easy to navigate. It’s not and Vastum can be the soundtrack to your darkest of days if you allow them to be.
Three albums in and it’s hard to argue that there is any band in death metal right now with such a murderer’s row of complimentary parts as the one Vastum boasts. The dual-vocal attack of Daniel Butler and Leila Abdul-Rauf (who also does double duty on guitar) is downright nightmare-inducing in both their delivery and their mesmerizing lyrical content. The twin axe attack of Abdul-Rauf and Shelby Lermo lays down riffs like demented surgeons – with complete precision and an equally complete lack of compassion. Meanwhile the battering ram rhythm section of bassist, Luca Indiro, and drummer, Adam Perry keep everything marching forward in the unwavering battle against mediocrity. It might seem like an unwinnable battle at times but Vastum is going to go down swinging, soaked in the blood of poseurs and non-believers alike.
Hole Below is due out on November 6 via 20 Buck Spin. You can experience the sonic hostility of the tracks “Sodomitic Malevolence,” “Amiosis,” and “Empty Breast” at the 20 Buck Spin Bandcamp page.