Vastum’s second album Patricidal Lust (20 Buck Spin) made quite an impact when it was released in 2013, offering Death Metal fans who weren’t convinced by the Portal-inspired trend towards abstract dissonance a more conventional but equally engaging alternative. It also made waves due to Vastum’s unorthodox use of sex and relationships as lyrical content, though it has to be said that they address those topics in a straight-forwardly Death Metal way – when their new album opens with a track called ‘Sodomitic Malevolence’, you know we’re talking World’s Greatest Love Songs.
After two years of waiting, Hole Below (20 Buck Spin) continues both the band’s fascination with the dark side of human relationships (‘In Sickness And In Death’, ‘Empty Breast’) and their mastery of cavernous but melodic morbid Death Metal. Vastum’s sound is much more rooted in DM orthodoxy than Portal and their imitators, but this is no crude exercise in “Old School” revivalism, either. A thick, powerful production enhances song-writing that forges Autopsy’s murky melodies to solid, punishing grooves and even a touch of the abyssal atmospheres explored by many modern Death Metal bands.
Hole Below sees Vastum explore their Doom and atmospheric elements more deeply than they did on Patricidal Lust, and the result is an album that perhaps lacks a little of its predecessors instant appeal, but which rewards perseverance. Big, decayed riffs drown in treacly feedback are still the core of their sound, but songs are structured less for violence and more for a slow-building of atmosphere.
Along with Cruciamentum, Vastum have produced some of the best straight-up Death Metal of the year. Not as brutal, as abstract or as alienating as some, but firmly treading a path which embraces Death Metal’s past as well as its future.