Solitude in Madness is here, and, as one might expect by this stage in their illustrious career, Vader is as Vader does. These guys have been putting in the work for a good long while at a remarkably consistent rate, delivering decent-to-good slabs of death metal with the kind of fibrous regularity the Village’s brick shithouse comes, over time, to respect. Headbangable thrashy death done right is a constant from the Vader camp.
But...there’s a big but. By their twelfth full-length release, these Polish death pedallers have begun to toe that slippery slope towards legacy act mediocrity. Not complacency, mind--they still play with a ferocity and a bite, and they still hit the nail on the head more often than not. Unfortunately, however, my feelings regarding this album after a plethora of run-throughs can be boiled down to this: as fast-paced death metal, it’s quite enjoyable in the moment, but suffers significantly when it comes to staying power. Granted, most of us aren’t looking for the year’s greatest or most innovative riff-fest when we crack open a cold Vader, so take my criticism for what you will.
The good? This thing is a brief and fiery affair, lasting an easily consumable 29 minutes (plus change.) Vader, to their credit, have maintained the “brief-is-better” mindset, choosing to pummel their listeners with good tracks, rather than letting us drown as we slog through a bevy of cuts that should have been left on the cutting room floor. In other words, they aren’t playing the game championed by the likes of *cough* Overkill or *cough cough* Testament. While no tracks herein feel like bonafide smash hits, I can’t imagine this thing being clipped much shorter. Thus: there’s not much time to dwell or snooze. There are, of course, some tracks that simply work better than others--take “Sanctification Denied, with its insatiable groove, or the breakdown-ridden “Dancing in the Slaughterhouse,” or the neck-snapping “And Satan Wept,” or the meaty, bouncy, and otherwise thrash-tastic “Into Oblivion”-- as prime examples of Vader in their element. And, as always, Piotr Wiwczarek puts in the work, both in terms of his belligerent forward-falling riffage and his trademark powerful bark. The man is both a machine and a beast. Not, of course, to discredit the rest of the crew, who certainly aren’t slackers.
But then: the bad. Taken as a whole, this record breezes by without establishing many moments that stick around after the fact. Sure, the riffs are crunchy and the drums are tight, but precision and technical skill alone doesn’t determine replay-ability. From a compositional standpoint, Vader are beginning to enter the dreaded arena of “same-y.” Nothing here stands among their best work from a memorable compositional standpoint, and without much dynamism between tracks, nor several monolithic tracks around which the structure itself, Solitude in Madness as a whole simply can’t carry as much weight as Vader have previously--and ably--shouldered.
In sum? Solitude in Madness constitutes average Vader output. The individual songs are fierce enough, albeit short-lived, and the album, while quite enjoyable in the moment, fails to draw us slumbering scribes back in for another round in the wringer. If you’re here to thrash that neck and sweat it out, the non-cerebral fan of straightforward metal lurking within my spinal column feels obligated to recommend giving this one a spin. But for those looking for pedal-to-the-metal death with some depth, this likely isn’t the Vader album you’re looking for. And, should Vader continue down this road, I fear losing them to the unfortunate association of legacy acts who simply refuse to switch up the pace.
Vader - Solitude in Madness was released May 1st, 2020 from Nuclear Blast Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!