A reunited Australian band’s 2014 release finds new life via Sweden’s Blood Harvest label.
Being in a band is hard, man. You’ve gotta deal with losing members, low budgets, working around schedules, writer’s block and the prime cause of band death everywhere: creative differences. There are countless stories out there of bands who got together as kids, struck inspiration gold through dumb luck or raw talent, gained notoriety through constant touring or a widely-circulated demo, then for whatever reason (or perhaps no reason at all)… just sorta disappeared. Maybe the friends couldn’t stand being in the van together anymore, maybe the riff ideas stopped coming, or maybe life just got in the way and it was time to walk away for awhile. Happens all the time.
At least some of this applies to Vahrzaw. Copied below is a snippet of the label’s promo text that effectively sums up their journey:
Originally self-released in 2014 on CD-R in extremely limited quantities, Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues was Vahrzaw’s second album following a long, tangled history. Vahrzaw was formed in 1992 in a southeast Australian industrial cesspit by high school friends. The earliest incarnation of the band was named Necromancy […] Name changes ensued, from Midgard to Deathcult, until 1994, when a stable three-piece lineup formed and the true Vahrzaw emerged. Three cassette demos of raw, filthy black metal were released […] The band ceased to be in 1998, but seven years later, the project was re-formed with the same core members. A third album is in the early stages of rehearsal and will be released in 2017 for the 25th anniversary, and promises even more of what Vahrzaw is about: riffs, aggression, speed, and total BLACK DEATH!
There you have it. It took that history for listeners to end up at Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues, a confident release that promises exactly those last three words: Total. Black. Death (roughly 60% death and 40% black to be exact).
Opening track “Arrows Pierce the Fog” eschews clever audio samples in favor of getting right to the fucking point. All elements are immediately in place: sandpaper guitar tones, bass that sounds like it was covered in mud and drums with a killer trigger-free thump maneuvering riff switchbacks and twists before hitting a glorious black metal ascension around the 2:30 mark. Subsequent tracks “On the Shoulders of Giants” and “End Room” split off between heavier death and black metal influences respectively, each retaining elements of that first introduction to the Vahrzaw sound from track one.
“Acta Non Verba” ups the initial tempo and ferocity, while allowing some rhythmic interplay between guitars and spaces of buildup for each member to lock back into place with one another. There’s also a great open E string half tempo riff here that’s been stuck in my head for days; there’s nothing I love so much like an open string riff that goes just slightly out of tune as it’s being played. The title track that follows embraces more dissonance than has been heard on the album thus far, and places a killer Entombed-esque riff dead center in the song, evoking left hand paths with minor notes chasing each other down the fretboard.
Tracks 6 and 7, “To Give Meaning to the Meaningless” and “Scourge” bury themselves firmly in old school death metal territory with plenty of double bass and mid-paced sections that beg to be moshed to – the latter even opens with a labyrinthine riff that could pass for Blotted Science. Closing track “Nihil Obstat” acts as an effective summary of everything you’ve heard on the album thus far, adding more hairpin stops and starts to frenetic riffing in nasty minor-key melodies atop blasts, d-beats and a closing machine gun riff that serves to punch you in the ears one last time before a full-steam section of chaos ends the album.
While I typically don’t notice them much in music of this vein, the guitar solos (where present) are fantastic. Juuust a shade of FM rock radio style leaks into their composition and elevates them into something more accessible and classy than, say, a sloppy “fuck everything” solo full of warbly squeedlies done only to appease the kvltest of kvltheads. The vocals are also effectively grim and gnashed, dropping an octave here and there to truly lower song sections into the grave when needed, and sitting just a bit low in the mix to let the instruments take center stage.
I’m not much of a death metal listener (so check the comments below for FFO suggestions) but I found myself really getting into these songs after the first spin. Enough accessibility has been woven into each track that you’re sure to find something, dare I say, catchy to latch onto or that makes your ears perk up and take notice. The production gives it a quality of evoking old school attitude without overthinking or trying to sound like a revival act – everything is appropriately thick, bassy and smoothed over of high-end harshness. I’ll definitely be listening to this more, and I suggest you try the same. I also plan on getting that artwork tattooed onto my back as soon as possible, so do with that what you will.
4/5 TOILETS OV HELL
Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues drops August 26th