REVIEW: VILE CREATURE – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!

VILE CREATURE // Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
[Prosthetic Records // June 19th 2020 // DD*/CD/TC/LP/VHS]

Proving to be one of the most uncompromising bands of recent years, Ontario, Canada based doom metal duo Vile Creature have accomplished a lot in six years, with this third full length album of theirs being both their most ambitious and widely available after signing with Prosthetic Records. Vile Creature are known for being able to process feelings of grief, sorrow and suffering into a ferocious catharsis that manifests in their harrowing and intense performances, also extending to their crushing live show.

Glory, Glory! delivers further on these promises immediately as the duo lure you into their dark, chaotic world from the moment opener ‘Harbinger of Nothing’ kicks off, with vocalist and drummer Vic Creature’s deranged shrieks. The first third of the song pummels the listener constantly with a barrage of shrill riffing and a near constant vocal attack. The 11 minute song’s mid section offers some respite, as the duo hold back on the intensity, allowing more atmospheric and textured guitar to unwind. Vic Creature’s vocals veer off into the distance, sounding like they may be lost in a dark forest and fighting through anxiety. In something that structurally sounds akin to a post-metal song, the Vile Creature rears its head for one last beastly attack in the fierce and heavy finale, with the listener now clutched in their claws.

The following song’s title ‘When the Path Is Unclear’ very much sums up the song, as this also 11 minute track feels twice as long as the previous one. In contrast, Vile Creature feel lost as this lengthy track plods and meanders aimlessly. The guitar in particular sounds dry across a doom-by-numbers riff in a song that feels uneventful after such a powerful opening of intent. The almost constant use of screamed vocals work against the duo here, becoming rather monotonous, seemingly covering up guitar riffing that lacks depth and nuance. It’s a 180 turn that carries over onto side B’s opening number ‘You Who Has Never Slept’, in which the combo of one dimensional riffing and unwavering shrieked vocals have us reaching for the skip button.

It’s so fortunate that this record’s final stretch is a night and day improvement, as if the duo saved all their experimentation and best ideas for this title piece, split into two separate tracks. ‘Glory, Glory!’ is a percussion-free epic sounding akin to an Ennio Morricone scored Western flick, with an impressive display of multi-layered hymnal vocals. A lone twanging guitar weaves in and out of the choir, only enhancing that Morricone vibe. The additional arrangements and instrumentation from vocalist Laurel Minnes and Tanya Byrne’s organ playing add a welcome sense of expanse. As this grand finale concludes with ‘Apathy Took Helm!’, things go very heavy once again. The crushing riffs and screaming vocals return in full force, but the addition of an extra guitar lead and the continuing choral vocals give Vile Creature more drive, and they allow for more compositional space for those new elements to thrive. The result is a thrilling, grandiose and truly epic finale that showcases something bright and ambitious for Vile Creature.

Looking over the record as a whole, Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! is certainly a step forward for the duo into the wild west, but also feels like a transitional album; one that is keen to experiment and push their sound into bold new territories, yet still with one foot remaining firmly in their comfort zone. This presents something of a crossroad for the band, and perhaps the listener, with a record that feels groundbreaking and exciting in some parts, but also holds something back. Whilst the brilliance of the album’s final 14 minutes shouldn’t be understated, that sense of artistic urgency and bravery doesn’t apply to all of what comes before it, resulting in a lopsided affair, but fortunately tolerant listeners who take on the entire journey will be very much rewarded.

//

Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! will be released on June 12th on all formats through Prosthetic Records.

Advance listening courtesy of Prosthetic Records / Pioneer Music Press.

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