Vasaeleth bring hopelessness, bad vibes on hellacious ‘All Uproarious Darkness’

When I was in high school, we were able to pick up Pitt’s student-run radio station out in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and every Sunday afternoon, it would be a two-hour block of the rawest death metal on the planet. Now this was the early 90s, so the genre hadn’t quite exploded yet, so we felt like we were getting in on the ground level of something ugly and charnel.

The bands sounded totally different than what we’d hear out of the thrash and power metal scenes we’d normally treat ourselves to, and it even differed from some of the more well-known acts at the time like Cannibal Corpse and Obituary because this stuff sounded like it bubbled straight out of hell. Problem was the DJs rarely ever told you who they were playing, and because the Internet wasn’t a thing yet, we couldn’t really Google the fragments of lyrics we could understand, so a lot of what we heard remains a mystery. But I know that sound, I know how cold it made me feel, and I know when I hear that same thing again in another band.

Vasaeleth coverThat takes us to Vasaeleth, the destructive duo that captures the essence of that ugly early death metal sound as well as anyone. They lurch and blow low-level fire, making their music sound as underground and worm-ridden as they possibly can. The band also has been relatively silent since their 2010 debut album “Crypt Born and Tethered to Ruin” dropped, with the exception of a couple split efforts, and now they’re finally crawling back with “All Uproarious Darkness,” a five-track, 19-minute affair that should satisfy some of your hunger pangs for true, dark death metal and should remind you of just how good these guys are. The muck and horror they churn out over this short but effective collection is powerful and deadly, and the duo of vocalist/guitarist/bassist O.A. and drummer Antinom sound as possessed and charred as two guys can possibly be. And it’s funny, because even for how raw and primitive this sounds (which is a good thing), it’s astonishing this isn’t the product of more people. But who needs an undead army anyway? They guys boil enough flesh and make enough racket on their own, and this album is in a disturbing joy.

The title track gets this disgusting mess going, with filthy, doomy death, music sounding like it’s coming out of a hellish furnace being fueled by human flesh, and the scream/growl tradeoffs sets the right pace and aims to bruise you. The song finishes on a black metal-tinged melody line, and it sets you up for “Paradise Reconsecrated,” a fast, grim tale that, once the quaking subsides, also takes time to slither in a calculating and threatening manner when they decide to grind the gears. The song bathes in violence and utter hopelessness, and if you come away feeling uplifted, you may have heard this wrong. “Fathomless Wells of Ruin” is raw, with drum blasts falling like boulder-sized hail, and gruesome guitar riffs causing the bile to rise and just about choke you. O.A.’s growls sound like deranged hisses at some points, like words trying to rip through bubbling tar at others, and the song melts back into the dust as it comes to its end.

“Black Curse Upheld” is mean and not neighborly, with a crushing, drubbing melody that could leave you with an unforgivable migraine from all the jostling around you’ll experience. The growls lurk beneath the swath of metallic chaos, and once again a hint of black metal rolls in to cement damnation. Closer “Throat of the Grey Watcher” begins with piercing drone that could cause dizziness and nausea, and then O.A.’s growls explode in agony, sounding like the final words of a man being slowly tortured. Your skull takes a serious pounding due to Antinom’s furious drumming, and the band sounds like a demon-spawned machine moving and slicing its way through anything standing in front of it, with mercy never even entering into the equation.

If you’re looking for hooks and gloss, you’ve come to the absolute wrong place. You seriously could not have done any worse. And that’s a huge compliment I’m paying Vasaeleth because their ugliness and terror is what I don’t get enough from death metal’s ranks, and hearing the total lack of compassion and emotion for human suffering is oddly uplifting. This feels like the sticky, stinking death that originally turned me onto the genre, and as long as bands like Vasaeleth are still here to drag death metal’s corpse around, I’ll be there to feast happily.

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