PICK OF THE WEEK: Vanum’s debut ‘Realm of Sacrifice’ bursts with fire-breathing, chaotic emotion

VanumWhen a band forms combining members of other noted, respected groups, expectations can be unnecessarily high. And misplaced. Sometimes both. No matter what, listeners are going to expect something akin to what the artists created in the past with their other bands, and if it doesn’t come close to that line, disappointment is sure to follow. Or, for more open-minded listeners, enlightenment into what else these artists can do just might occur. We have a lot of the latter today.

Vanum’s debut offering “Realm of Sacrifice” might fall somewhere in the middle for fans of the two musicians who comprise its lineup. This union of K. Morgan of Ash Borer and M. Rekavics of Fell Voices, Vorde, Sleepwalker, and Vilkacis probably have a lot of people salivating to hear what they put together on this four-track album. All of those bands noted above have helped create a new level of atmosphere and creativity in the U.S. black metal scene, and they are some of the most respected groups inhabiting and reinventing the underground. While these two musicians have crossed paths on split releases, as well as on tours crisscrossing the country, Vanum is the first time they’ve ever gotten together to form a whole new entity and original creations therein. It should be one of the most anticipated underground releases going right now, though the hype machines are fired up for other things. That’s a mistake, because this document is massive and brimming with power.

Vanum coverSo yeah, if you want a record that puts together some of the best elements of Ash Borer, Fell Voices, and Vorde, you get enough of that to suffice your overly demanding expectations. Here is thunderous, dreamscape black metal that should have you feeling like you are operating in a fog and looking for the other end of your adventure. But there’s far more to it than that. One thing that rises above everything else is the amount of pure human emotion packed into these songs. You feel these tracks. The guitar work affects the heart, soul, and mind, and the vocals spread bleeding expression all over this thing. It has melodies that seem to regenerate at will, and as weird as it is to say this, what these two create with Vanum pushes well past the boundaries established by their other groups.

The record opens with “Realm of Ascension,” a cut that begins with unsettling pounding and then guitar work that leans toward the progressive side. Suddenly, riffs begin to rain down and soak the soil, with melodies riveting, howls erupting, and every element surging forward with power. The sounds eventually subside, with a calming, glimmering passage emerging, letting things sprawl and stretch before one final gasp. Then the seams burst and the final moments feel like they were dreamed in a sci-fi lab. “In Immaterial Flame” starts clean and murky, with tributaries leaking and moving forward. Heart-grasping growls flood the surface, with howls of, “A multitude of visions circle the mortal axis/A lens at both ends of the labyrinth of perception.” It’s pretty heady, philosophical, and ultimately bathing in violent imagery, with guitars spiraling and punishing, the senses being assaulted, and the red-blooded emotional playing sweeping you up into its fury. The vocals practically lace your organs, with the power shifting, your head left swimming in the mire, and final throaty gasps unleashed before everything fades.

“Convergence” feels spooky in its first few moments, with spacious exploration and the sounds causing strange feelings in every cell of your body. The track then launches in earnest, with faster tempos and gigantic riffs leading the charge and infectious melodies revealing themselves. Chaos bursts to the surface like spurts of lava, with the vocals aiming to leave abrasions, the music soaring through the stars, and pockets bursting all over again with rage. The track’s introductory riff comes back around again, almost as if to tie the whole thing together, and the song rushes rapidly to its conclusion, leaving you with a crippling head rush. The closing title cut is bled into from the tail end of “Convergence” and feels like a strange shadow hulking through the night. Guitars light up and hit a gazey crescendo, with melody and heart-grasping passages stunning you and a deluge of gut-spilling playing creating yet another high point where you can’t even see the ground anymore. The music then takes a somber turn as it nears the finish line, with the darkness poured thick, the band’s heart pumping black blood, and the particles dissolving into a mist that coats your face and leaves you heaving at the end of your journey.

Vanum decimate all expectations with “Realm of Sacrifice,” as this record is so much greater than I expected it would be. I assumed it would be a great collection because of who is involved, but it bursts through the stratosphere and defies all boundaries anyone could put on these two. It might not be Ash Borer + Fell Voices = that even louder. And I’m happy it’s not. This is an entirely different beast, one that breathes rarified air, lives on another plane, and threatens to get bigger and more thought-provoking as time goes on. Vanum’s arrival should be getting more attention that it has, because it’s that astonishing. Maybe once it gets in more ears, everyone’s voice will get louder.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/realmofsacrifice

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/