Irish death crew Vircolac put ax to showing false presentations on punchy debut album ‘Masque’

None of us are truly who we say we are. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all humankind is deceitful (well, it kind of is), but often times we show parts of ourselves that tend to be more positive or accepting for any numbers of reasons—making friends, finding lovers, getting jobs. There are masks that we wear, and no matter what we do, we’re often always wearing one.

That isn’t lost on Irish death crew Vircolac, whose tremendous debut album “Masque” examines those false faces we put on and the erosion of self that can occur if we do not free our faces from those misleading layers now and again. Their seven-track, 36-minute debut is an ideally portioned offering that’s crushing, exciting, and inventive, all the while examining the darkness within us or at least our insecurities that keep our true beings at arm’s length. The band’s name means werewolf in Romanian (it also reminds me of, like, an ED or hair loss drug name, but I’m an idiot), and they prowl through these songs that’ll definitely keep you at attention. The group is comprised of vocalist Laoghaire, guitarist BMC, bassist JK, and drummer NH, and they’re definitely going to have people buzzing once this music hits more ears, it’s that explosive and captivating. We need more bands like this.

“Titan” starts the record and gives a bit of a fantasy vibe, but in as brutal a means possible. The track gets off to a hammering start with gnarly growls and a splattering vibe. “Wield the ax, kneel before the titan!” Laoghaire howls as the soloing goes off, leading to brief calm and glowing keys, before the track comes to a speedy, crushing end. “Tether and Wane” has a channeled path as the bass churns and Laoghaire wails, “Soon the blood will run!” Dual guitars join up and cut, leading to a proggy section where the playing feels like it pays homage to space metal gods Voivod. That spirals into more weirdness that brings the track to a bizarre finish. “So I Hang From the Wretched Tree” has strange guitars and a humid pace before the song begins to lay waste. A mystical haze then arises, hurtling the track into psychosis before everything boils and goes out in a thick steam.

The title track begins with drums rumbling and an eerie sense of strangeness, as the growls tell the story, splattering, “The masque betrays,” as the point is jabbed home. The pace sprawls into hideous carnage, drubbing and drawing blood every step of the way. “Snake Among Man” has guitars taunting and the track charging ahead while the soloing melts faces. The track cakes mud but also settles into a more rock n roll feel, giving it some looseness, with the song ending abruptly. “The Long Trail” has a smashing start, racing and delivering savage howls and mounting a blazing attack. The vocals creak over a strange storm with guitars rushing while colorful melodies spill different textures, and the earth breaks apart from the pressure. “End of a Beginning” is a quick instrumental that wraps the bow tightly with spiraling post-rock playing, keys dripping, and the track being swallowed into deep space.

As long as we all shall live, we’re bound to continually try on new masks, discard old ones, or even revisit past faces just to make our journey through life seemingly easier. And Vircolac, who don’t deny these behavior of themselves, will be behind us, noting these moves and questioning our motives. “Masque” could be a helpful companion as we stomp our own personal paths and perhaps a reminder to show our real face every now and again, if only to prevent its decay.

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