Blood Red Victory is--praise the gods of battle above--the textbook definition of a grower. At initial listen, IRONFLAME seemed banal at best, a deliberate and unassuming second fiddle to literally any of Iron Maiden's more, well, banal moments. IRONFLAME, my early notes indicate, is to Snoke as Bruce Dickinson is to Palpatine--a fallible facsimile.
But I couldn't have been more wrong. While Blood Red Victory isn't a showstopping album by any means, it is, in fact, a delightfully astute and solid recreation of the trad metal sound. Despite listening a great many times over the past few weeks, I'm inclined to throw it on one more time. Or maybe two more times. Let’s just see where the day takes us, shall we?
Autumn was a brief affair here at the Sleeping Village, and now that rime coats our beards and the snow has unceremoniously de-robed the trees, we slumbering scribes are all set to slip into hibernation for the next five months or so.
But! To combat said lethargy before it truly sets in, I, in all my administration authority, bequeathed our archivist to trawl through our overstuffed mailcart for something worthy of our collective attention. When he emerged, Galaxy’s sci-fi inspired debut EP clutched in white-knuckled grasp, I was confident we had, at very least, an approximation of a winner. And so here we are, blasting Lost From the Start ‘till our lids droop. Feel free to join in the festivities.
This review (in its unadulterated form) was originally published in April, but, as today saw the re-release of an expanded version under Ripple Music, we thought it would be appropriate to break out this ol' writeup. The following is an edited and updated version. - Ed.
As obnoxious as it is to have people stoically refuse to admit that rock is, in fact, not dead, it's more obnoxious still to have a critic point out how patently absurd that statement is. So I'll refrain from falling down that particular rabbit hole. Needless to say, LA’s Void Vator plays some damn fine rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ‘em, and, from all accounts, they've got nowhere to go but up. This past April saw the release of Stranded as a 6-track EP, but here, after catching the eye of Ripple Music, it has been re-released as an album, with 2 brand new tracks in tow. If there was e’er a time to dust out the cobwebs and get back into chorus slinging high energy rock, yer looking at it.
Biographical material indicates a similarity to bands as diverse as Nirvana, Pantera, Megadeth and Foo Fighters. An eclectic mix, yes, yet oddly accurate. Take quite literally any track here--let’s say "Nothing to Lose" or the dynamic "Put Away Wet," for argument’s sake--and you’ll find the best elements of the aforementioned lurking mere inches below the surface. Bottom line: if you want your rock to have it, Void Vator wears it proudly. Short tracks. Grin-inducing solos. Blatantly air guitar-able riffs, which create and subsequently release kinetic energy like one taking a boltcutter to a tightly wound coil. Straightforward head-bopping groove. Aggressively present drums. Some of the more earwormy vocal melodies I’ve heard in a very long while--and this, I mean genuinely.
“Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” riffs Grohl in some long-forgotten internet video. Rock may live and/or die by the guitar, but within the genre confines, a band’s staying power is often dependent on the vocalist’s ability to write the kind of chorus that get trapped in your head for days. Here, Void Vator succeeds remarkably. Take standout track "Inside Out," which features a hook that wouldn't go amiss in a newfound single from Audioslave or (the oft-neglected) Manman God. Lucas Kanopa’s classically gruff voice has the golden ability to inflict nostalgia-ridden glee, and if your track delivers a reaction of that pedigree, you’re doing something right. From an industry standpoint, “radio ready” has, unfortunately, become a bit of an unfortunate insult. Stranded deserves a wide audience, plain ‘n’ simple, and they’ve got the potential in spades. This album's high octane strains have graced the Sleeping Village's halls a multitude of times this year, and will likely receive some attention as we compile our end of year lists. It's dangerously repeatable, to the detriment of a certain stack of promos.
This re-release includes two new tracks: "Everything Sucks" and "Monster." The former is a bit of a wildcard, featuring a doomy intro that launches into a particularly nihilistic and punky brand of garage rock. It's a lot less subtle than the rest of the tracks herein, and feels a little under-baked on it's own. That said, the asymmetrical intensity between the respective halves provides substantial interest. "Monster," on the other hand, feels like a very complete track, undoubtedly ready and able to fill the all-important closer position. This lil' number has a delightfully unrestrained quality, and feels like an accurate summation of the general vibe Void Vator continue to nail.
Critically, the catchiness of each track does depend largely on the vocals. Personal preference, no doubt, but a thicker guitar tone might make these catchy-as-hell riffs a little heftier in stature. There's a thin line between remaining accessible and beating up your audience, but as it stands now, the guitar sounds a tad thin. But that aside: perhaps most importantly, Void Vator aren’t boring. If that sounds like a grossly under-applied veneer of accomplishment, know that dynamism and maintained interest are...startlingly rare. For a genre that has historically gotten by on singles and lots of filler, packing a punch with all 8 tracks is a victory. Let there be no doubt: as long as high energy bands like Void Vator are doing the rounds and writing kickass tunes, rock ain’t going anywhere. Keep fighting the good fight.
Void Vator’s (highly recommended) Stranded was released Nov. 22nd, 2019 from Ripple Music
Generally, whilst writing a review, I immerse myself in a band's back catalog. In the case of Screamer's four-album discography, that particular exercise feels moot: I already know what color-by-numbers heavy metal sounds like. While that may come off as pretty disparaging--and it is, to a minor degree, because Highway Of Heroes is less than inventive--this consistency in aesthetic ain't bad. Not by a long shot. This haggard scribe can get down with some blatant worship of convention, and in this regard, Screamer are unmatched in their old school heavy metal spirituality. While it did, admittedly, take a few listens to sink in, I'm confident in stating that Highway Of Heroes is one of the year's best entries in NWOBHM and affiliated fun-lovin' categories.
Captain Graves is on what we earthlings might refer to as "a tear," and I'm certainly not going to stand in his way. Enjoy his latest treatise. - Ed.
I've been kept busy over here at The Village. They took me to their vomit pits for a glorious session. Watching feeble humans excrete from every orifice is quite satisfying if I do say so myself, and I do.
When The Deadbolt Breaks' Angel's Are Weeping... ...God Has Abandoned... is far from vomit inducing. It's more homicidal/suicidal, and I really get into that. Destroying worlds and making people suffer is somewhat of an expertise for me. The first track "Centering Through Isolation" has a long intro, it almost turned me off from writing this review, but I'm glad I gave it a chance. Its atmospheric and sludgy nature reeled me in. "Blood Born" also has a long intro, but the guitar is trance-like and seems to tell a story on it's own. I do love wet guitar lines. It turns into a sludgefest after that, switching between operatic vocals and deathly screams.
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.