Chris Cleo sinks his fangs into some new death metal from Singapore, here’s what he thinks…
The storms and shadows brew as Singaporean death-metallers ‘Vrykolakas’ unleash their third full-length album ‘And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos and Destruction’. With an arguable ‘veteran’ status amongst the ranks of death metal acts that is upheld by a career that spans nearly 3 decades from their first 1992 demo, a gap of 10 whole years separates this release with Vrykolakas’ last full length album ‘Unleashing Vrykolakas upon the mankind’. The band has criss-crossed across the spectrum of death metal, with early releases embracing a raw blackened-death sound and later maturing into a straight brutality-focused old school death metal monolith. The somewhat original flavour of eastern eschatological lore that Vrykolakas portray so well unites the ever-important third full-length with the rest of the discography, and in this case makes for an enjoyable, replayable behemoth of an album.
Formalities aside – it’s really not uncommon to see extreme metal albums edging near to an hours run time nowadays, and as amazing as epic songs in metal can be, bands with the ‘7-minute+ song fetish’ can write bloated songs that amount to even more bloated albums. Thankfully this definitely isn’t the case with Vrykolakas. With an average song length of just under 6 minutes, there are plenty of riffs and different drum patterns to sink your teeth into. Key sections repeat enough to become memorable and one-off sections appear often enough to keep it interesting, and Vrykolakas balance both aspects perfectly, resulting in an album with listenable songs that have bits that sound new with each spin.
The songs revolve around the standard fast death metal tremolo riffs that dive into half-time chunky rhythms alongside the drums. Melodically the riffs match the theme of the eastern lore similarly to bands like Nile or Melechesh, but also work in sync with the drum patterns, where the fast beats are played with an almost thrashy edge, allowing the melodic style to work differently here as oppose to the other death metal bands that take the same approach because of this difference in rhythm. Drum parts follow suit and bounce from upbeat thrashy sections to strictly death metal grooves (think old school Deicide or Suffocation) and are the main creative lick of colour. For a riff-centric album with only a couple of solos splashed about here and there, the innovation in drum patterns and their synchronisation with the guitar work makes for a new light for these standard trem-riffs to be seen in, and makes them sound fresh without sounding too alien.
Compared to the bands previous works, ‘And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos and Destruction’ shows a definite evolution in musicality and overall sound, with an increase in average track length (albeit not to the point of modern epic death metal) and a cleaner production to help facilitate all the nuances in the drumming. Against previous Vrykolakas full-length albums, this album makes it apparently clear that the band has more of a classic death metal feel in mind as opposed to the previous albums’ blackened death style. Granted there has been a 10 year gap between the last LP and this one, various splits, singles and EPs clearly illustrate this growth, with their 2020 EP ‘Into the Shadow of Death’ hinting at this absolute monster of an album. Vrykolakas show more of their thrashy-death style on this record (GASP… there are no blast beats) and songwriting that focuses on giving each song a clear overall feel which is definitely a positive.
Overall, this attention to musical detail shows nearly 30 years of experience in practice, with a really well functioning album. It’s not everyday that a band can make 50 minutes not sound like a drag, but can also give you enough meat on each song to make it worth listening to a good few times. Yes, it’s different from the old, rawer sound that Vrykolakas had once upon a time, but this album is just too good to be tied down by the band’s previous sound. Fans of this style of metal can really get behind this album and can look forward to the chaos and destruction, because Vrykolakas are really bringing it.
VRYKOLAKAS – AND VRYKOLAKAS BRINGS CHAOS AND DESTRUCTION was released on July the 1st and is available via BandCamp