And the Leviathan, the one named Vassafor, emerged again from the seas of New Zealand this past 2017, after a period of semi-latency since the obliterating split album with Temple Nightside (let's not forget the fabulous Ancient Meat Revived), to unleash their extremely expected second full-length, which was released in a collaboration between Debemur Morti, the label who took charge in 2015 of compiling their post-2010 releases on a 3xCD, and Iron Bonehead Productions, whith whom they already worked on the mentioned split album from 2015 and another from 2014 with VK's other abomination, Sinistrous Diabolus.
Taking into account that Obsidian Codex is one of my favorite records in that sub-genre floating amidst the waters of (diabolical) Death Metal, (bestial) Black Metal and (suffocating) Doom that has broken the dominant trends and rules in the resurgency of the extreme Metal underground, taking it back to its primary sludge, I had mixed feelings of impatience and fear to disappointment when confronting 'Malediction'. Partially, it was due to the fact that their last two split releases, despite being easily above the average we can find in the genre, didn't catch me as strongly as their debut album. Although I tried to receive this new offering with blank ears and as less expectations as possible; something hard, to say the least, after reading VK's comments on Bardo Methodology on the production, and seeing the absolutely fabulous artwork that was going to cover the vinyl version(which I found more fitting and eye-catching than David Herrerías version, used for both the CD and the inside of the vinyl gatefold).
'Malediction' is a somewhat different beast if we compare it to Vassafor's debut full-length, although not so far from the band's general aesthetics. 'Obsidian Codex' pushed the heavy side of Vassafor to the limit, it was an incredibly suffocating record (with a clearer penchant for Funeral Doom and doomier Death Metal), yet still keeping the (old and sometimes Greek-ala-Varathron) Black Metal spirit of the band. While their new output takes us a bit closer to the more varied and dynamic side of their sound, and it brings back, and puts higher than ever I would say, their most diabolical and chaotic face, with that mix of all the most extreme and darkest sides of the Metal spectrum. The rythmic side is probably the most unilateral and savage element, with a good mix of bestial blastbeats and slower simple, catchy and old-school parts. All in all, with a good Blasphemy/Beherit flavour: raw, straight and fucking punishing. While lead guitars take a lot of different and meandering paths, fusing chainsaw power-chords with devilish and possessing melodies, but also with a lot of noise and absolutely demential details going on all around (something Vassafor are very keen to), which make me guess how many tracks have been used on every song. And I'll not forget VK's voice, which is like the deepest leviathan grunt coming from the deepest pits, but with some very unsettling termination that makes it quite different than the usual gutural tone of the genre.
The strength of Vassafor and this record is actually how they take the old ways of Black, Death and Doom Metal, Extreme Metal in its full meaning, the rotten and pestilential, the one with no boundaries nor compromise, with a composition that is devoid of too many unnecessary arrangements or ornaments but spares no resources in finding all the required tools to bring the intensity, the intrincate atmosphere and the impact of their songs to a whole new level of thickness, painfulness, viciousness and obscurity. It may actually seem quite simple on a first listen, with some monotonous drum patterns and reverb loaded vocals, but with each listen and each new look at every part, I've find new details, no matter if it's a crazy lead ending or a scream crossing over a completely noisy riff.
It's actually on the sonical level, on how the production manages all this mix of elements being spit all together, where this record becomes pretty challenging. On the interview I was mentioning at the beginning of this review, VK explained how he wanted all the instruments to sound as one element, and it is undeniable he managed it (very well I would say). I wouldn't expect less after listening to how he managed the mixing/mastering duties of 'Doom Cult' and 'War of All Against All', 'Three Devils Dance', 'Grave Ekstasis' or 'Master Satan's Witchery'. But it's still very important to note that his work on 'Malediction' proofs how different it is to do a savage, raw and incredibly somber recording from using those adjectives to cover a bad job or a lack of musical abilities. As you can clearly distinguish every element going on in these fifty-four minutes of apocalyptic resonances, no matter how many they are, but that doesn't mean it is an easy nor pleasant journey. More likely to travelling through one of your worst nightmares and having quite a big trouble finding a way out.
I doubt you can find a tighter or simply better example of how the pure devilish sounds of the underground sound on this new century. 'Malediction' is Extreme Metal from the old age for the new age. Crushing.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.