The idea of a supergroup is one that got pretty big in the 80s when members of corporate rock outfits would get together and make some blowout record that was supposed to get their collective fans all bothered for the genius that would result from all of these forces combining. Sometimes they sucked, sometimes they were OK.
Metal has had its share of supergroups (which is a stupid term, by the way), bands made up of members of other notable bands combining forces to see what would come of their collected creative energies. Bands like Shrinebuilder, Bloodbath, Fantomas, and recently discussed Ensemble Pearl all did it right, making music that didn’t ape their own projects and did have lives of their own. Then there have been some pretty awful ones that we might as well forget ever existed. Ov Hell, anyone? Have we stopped laughing at Adrenaline Mob yet? Because I haven’t. OK, they’re not really metal, but Chickenfoot? That shit is proof Satan is real and he hates you.
Now comes a new project mysteriously titled VHÖL that combines members of some of the finest, most revered independent metal bands of the last decade whose union could only mean glorious things, right? I mean, you have guitarist John Cobbett of the mighty Hammers of Misfortune and who also played with the Lord Weird Slough Feg and Ludicra. There’s Mike Scheidt of doom crushers YOB, whose constantly evolving and shape-shifting voice is out in front of this band. You have Sigrid Sheie on bass, who also plays with Hammer of Misfortune and Amber Asylum, as well as Aesop Decker on drums, also of Ludicra, trancey Worm Ouroboros, and world-beating Agalloch. How could those forces possibly lead you astray? Or is that too much good for one project that everyone cancels each other out and it ends in a mess? That wasn’t out of the realm of possibility when this project was announced.
Yet, the band’s debut album finally is in our hands, and the results were not quite what was expected. By that I mean I naturally expected parts of all these members’ bands to be represented in some way, but that doesn’t really happen. This sounds like a brand new band, with fresh ideas, newfound directions, and a sound that isn’t the sum of all parts. If any band’s sound is most dominant in the music, it’s Ludicra’s, which is understandable, but that’s only very mildly here and there. Otherwise, this collection of savage, inspired, fucking brilliant songs sound like the band’s members pulled together all of their diverse influences, plugged in, and fucking went for it. It’s a devastating record that gets better with every listen. There are nods to classic metal, some furious D-beat punishment, some doom, some blackness, some everything.
The record rips open with menacing “The Wall,” which totally isn’t a Pink Floyd cover. I am certain some of you wondered. The track begins with a long instrumental section that gets about as Ludicra as things do on this record, but eventually Scheidt rips in with vicious screams doubled over by his clean, reach-for-the-stratosphere wailing, proving two Scheidt voice tracks are better than one. By the way, it sounds superior on headphones where you can get full appreciation for the composition. “Insane With Faith” gives us some nasty D-beat carnage that eventually meets headlong with classic metal guitar work, and Cobbett is in total fucking command of this song. “Plastic Shaman” again has Scheidt seeing just how far he can push his voice, and the choruses damn near have a hook to them. It’s a sticky little section that’ll stay in your head, and it’s the band’s most show-offy song on here. It’s a lot of fun. “Grace” is a full serving of metallic carnage, with the growls delivered in a deeper tone, the music melting into a thrash/death metal meltdown, and lightning sharp soloing.
“Illuminate” has a cool start-stop introduction that eventually takes off with more D-beat goodness, some adventurous sounds all around, including some mud-caked bass work, and a direct path into vicious “Arising,” that is speedy as hell, trippy as shit at times, and sounds like Judas Priest reborn, having trudged a path through hell. Scheidt’s vocals are unreal, and the guitar work lets loose all over again. Great song. “Set to Wait Forever” is a perfect closer, with black guitar chugging, some cleaner guitar work trickling through the mix, furious drumming that could set brush fires, and some deeper singing from Scheidt, traits of which we’ve heard on YOB’s albums. It mystically fades away into the darkness, and it’s a great capper on an incredible record.
Turns out with VHÖL that the sum is greater than its parts, because they didn’t just show up and do what they’re used to doing with their other bands. Everyone brought something new and fresh to the table and took an exciting, unexpected path, and wouldn’t you know it, they came up with something as unique and untouchable as their other bands. Hopefully this band has more fodder in their canon, because I’d love to hear what they come up with after a few more years, and shows, together. There’s a good chance that record might kick this debut’s ass. We can only hope.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/vholatile?ref=ts&fref=ts
To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/