There’s a lot to be down about right now, with COVID-19, climate change, and the gradual fracturing of society all bearing down upon us. It’s hard to have hope, and Vile Creature get it.
On ‘Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!’, the Ontario band clasp onto this collective sense of gloom and do their utmost best to wring the life out of it.
Vile Creature proudly define themselves as “angry queer gloom cult”, and set themselves, ideologically at least, a million miles away from much of their genre’s peers and forebearers. In the same way that Deafheaven took black metal away from its icy, nihilistic roots, and made it urbane and intensely introspective, Vile Creature are attempting an equivalent form of generic sacrilege within the similarly traditional church of doom metal.
In contrast to doom’s notorious preoccupations with Hell, the abyss, and relentless pessimism, the thematics of ‘Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!’ are much more personal, contemporarily urgent, and empowering. Right down to the album’s tongue-in-cheek title, Vile Creature are raging against the dying of the light through inclusive and refreshing, yet savage and transgressive (check out that album cover) means. Think of them as the extreme metal IDLES.
This generic inversion makes for the most compelling aspects of the album’s identity. Vile Creature are performing a progressive smash-and-grab on the genre and, just like with Deafheaven, many purists are sure to be up in arms. Fortunately, you get the sense that Vile Creature don’t give a single fuck, and are more than keen to piss off the old guard.
Despite all of their aesthetic uniqueness, the band doesn’t push especially hard against the sonic confines of the genre, and ‘Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!’ is as murky and brutal as any doom album you’ll hear all year. ‘Harbinger Of Nothing’ and ‘When The Path Is Unclear’ are the most conventional cuts, crawling and howling through their viscous concoctions of riffs, layering on enough textural shifts to ensure that their weighty runtimes remain engaging.
The moments where Vile Creature do push the boundaries are interesting, if not especially striking. The tribal drums of ‘You Who Has Not Slept’ are fantastic, Neurosis-like in their throat-grabbing viscerality, as are drummer/vocalist Vic‘s Scott Kelly-esque roars. The choral layers of closer ‘Apathy Took Helm!’ are well used and affecting, however won’t feel hugely unique to those familiar with fellow metal experimentalists such as Liturgy and Thou.
These unconventional adornments aren’t going to make your head spin, but work well enough as solid ideas that help elevate what would otherwise be well-written but standard doom songs. The album also lacks a certain emotional punch, there are few moments that feel particularly transcendent, as would be expected from an album that celebrates joy and beauty in all of its complicated forms.
‘Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!’ has the ideas, vision, and belief, without always possessing the strongest music to back its admirable goals. Still, it’s hard not to be taken in by Vile Creature‘s ambition, and their steadfast commitment to carving out a better future.