Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vastum - Carnal Law (20 Buck Spin, 2011)

Two ideas strike me upon first listening to Vastum: the first is that they play genuine old school death metal but with a crusty doom-laden personality of their own. The second is that these fellows are actually cultured. Rarely in metal are we privy to such intelligent and passionate lyrics steeped in literary, psychological and philosophical themes.

Their sound has the visceral nature of classic acts like Grave, Carcass, Death and Autopsy. Carnal Law incinerates everything in its path, hammering away at your cerebral cortex. This record also forgoes the easy route of electronic machine gun drum synthesis, resulting in a methodical performance with an antiquated analog feel. The quintet features members of Infest, Saros, Amber Asylum, and Hammers Of Misfortune. Not surprisingly, three of the five members come from Acephalix, a San Francisco punk / metal band who’s name is derived from Georges Bataille’s Acephale, a splinter group from the surrealist movement of 1930′s Paris. Acephale, which means headless, was a secret society intent on creating a new religion. Many elements of Bataille’s writings are included in Vastum’s themes. They explore his notions of the gift, transgression, excess, eroticism and death. Another intertwining theme presented here is psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche’s writing on psychic disfigurement and his work with Freud’s seduction theory (the idea that hysteria and neurotic obsession are born due to childhood molestation).

As you can tell, this band takes itself seriously; maybe too seriously for some. I, on the other hand, feel it is long overdue that a band like Vastum come along and rescue death metal from the clutches of a scene insistent on juvenile subject matter and horror film samples. Vastum will prove that death metal is not exclusively for angsty, inferior-feeling teenage males with no self-confidence. This is death metal worthy of snobby literary elitists and it is music that could actually make you smarter.

This post originally appeared in an article I wrote for

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