The modern-day approach to the black metal genre is one of increasing variety and discussion. The blackgaze scene continues to enthral as many as it infuriates, while more traditionalist acts still pay purist devotion to the corpse-paint sporting early days. Folk and gospel have even made their presence known, informing the works of Myrkur and Zeal & Ardor, respectively.
For Sweden’s Vampire, their scope may not be as expansive as say Wolves In The Throne Room, or as raw as Burial, but it doesn’t need to be. While their third full-length ‘Rex’ could be easily overlooked as a simple example of polished blackened death metal, upon closer inspection this is a dynamic, dour, and deeply atmospheric affair.
The cascading, seamless fusion of classic black metal with a remarkably modern and melodic take feels both fresh and exhilarating. A constant warring between the dissonance and melody plagues the material, aggressively pushing, shifting, and tearing in different sonic directions.
Everything here is steeped in layer upon layer of rich, authentic atmosphere; from the tremolo picked angular riffs, to the shrill shrieking vocals. Even the lyrical content deftly explores topics such as religion, the Lovecraftian and the macabre. For the sake of characterisation, nostalgia, or authenticity, the members even go by (presumably self-aware) over the top aliases such as Hand of Doom and Black String.
Clocking in at a tidy thirty-nine minutes, there’s a concise focus and brevity that prevents any moments of real over indulgence. The band are known to hold up in their Gothenburg workspace, writing and perfecting the material before entering the studio, and it’s evident in the careful craft and finesse with which each component is placed.
The juxtaposition of the abrasive nature of the compositions with crisp, clear production, as well as the dynamic approach to songwriting, which includes some surprisingly uplifting sections, elevates the work to commendable artistic heights. A perfect balance is struck between the beauty and despair that can co-exist within the metal genre without sacrificing the sanctity or essence of what makes it so cathartic.
‘Rex’ is Vampire‘s crowning achievement, their magnum opus if you will. A passionate, malevolent, focused endeavour, and a testament to truly thinking outside the box without abandoning it completely.