There are fewer climaxes in the metal world more deeply satisfying that when a band goes all blasty-blasty before slowing things down and turning the lights low on a final track. So pleasurable is this technique to my ear senses that I compiled an entire list of bands that provide just this sort of fulfillment in the early days of the blog. Brutal Truth did it. Weekend Nachos did it. Now newcomers Vanitas want us to do it with them in the Cemetery. So draw back the curtains and put on some Marvin Gaye, because Vanitas are about to make you feel things.
Why do I love taking it slow after taking it fast, you may be asking yourself? Well, my friend, there are few pleasures equal to that of an emotional release at the end of a full-throttle rampage through blastbeat town. We need that come down to help us reorient to real life after witnessing such outrageous violence. We need that final slow march into the night to impart a sense of clarity amid the hopelessness. And sometimes, we just need a reminder that bands know how to write more than one riff, dangit!
As much as I love extreme metal, I am genuinely annoyed by the fact that so many bands seem to have no concept of dynamics. If Joe paid me a dollar for every underground metal promo I got that features 8 songs that all sound identical (blast, growl, rinse, repeat), a) Joe would actually be paying me, which would be nice, and b) I’d have enough additional income to afford to stop hocking my plasma for booze money.
Thankfully, Vanitas, a new trio out of Ohio, understand the sensual allure of the slowdown. In fact, their debut EP, Cemetery, is entirely structured around this idea. While the first song “Memento mori” comes crashing out of the gate amid a flurry of tremolo chords and blackened d-beats, things quickly take a turn for the dramatic in just the first few minutes. After some genuinely barn-burning riffs get you all hot and bothered, the triple vocal attack of bassist O.S., drummer H.G.Y., and guitarist D.E., subsides long enough to let the band start really battering the hell out of the lower registers of their instruments in a sludgy beatdown. After a few clanging, jangling minutes, the track finds itself back on the rails, albeit in a particularly unhinged and wobbly fashion.
Alas, that poor little blasting train never really gets itself back up to speed again; after a deliciously bizarre segment of foreplay featuring bending, rubbery chords and a few more crusty breakdowns, “Memento mori” transitions into the positively bleak “Altum dolorem,” losing most semblance of black metal in the process. This second track finds the band (and us, by proxy) asphyxiating in a haze of choking reverb and almost off-tune guitar licks while H.G.Y. does his best funeral march impression. After the loose, almost slipshod rampage that was “Memento mori,” “Altum dolorem,” sounds downright somber, plaintive, and weary. The rhythmic changes between the two songs work perfectly to lure us into pure doom despondent ecstasy.
The EP’s final track is where the poor blast train finally falls off the rails, never to recover. “Underhill” opens amid an abstruse, almost Wolok-ian guitar frenzy that completely demolishes the track and leaves us begging on our knees for sweet salvation. Thankfully, Vanitas hear our doomed cries and deliver us unto devastation and deliverance with an absolutely crushing track that grinds our bodies into powder with its glacial riffs and smothering drum strikes. After one final, absurd flourish of black metal meets grind right at the end of the song’s 11-minute-plus runtime, we are offered sweet annihilation, left sweaty and roont in a demolished hotel room.
It’s rare to hear this level of adventurous songwriting and mastery of dynamic tension in extreme metal, let alone on a debut release, yet Vanitas have delivered a gripping record that maintains an emotional rhythm both within individual songs and on a macroscopic level across the entire EP. This is a young band unafraid to toy with genre preconceptions and willing to blend in outré tones and concepts. If you ever need definitive proof that extreme metal should be willing to take it slow every now and then, look no further.