Author: TK White
Album: Temple of Phobos
Genre: Death Metal
Label: Pulverised Records
(Ed: The fetid dead have arisen once more! We are back and resuming our hopefully regular posting schedule!)
I have had zero introduction to Vanhegld, but I figured these dudes are on Dark Descent so it has to be good and—spoilers—it is. These Swedes really know how to riff. They also know how to create some absolutely punishing atmospheres. Now, before we get too deep, I should reiterate that I had no idea who these guys were. I checked out their page on the Metal Archives and saw that two bands under “Similar Artist” were Asphyx and At the Gates. Not exactly two bands that you would often see coupled together, but it works. It actually describes the band pretty well. Truthfully, I think the best band to equate them to would be label-mates, Blood Incantation. That being said, the band definitely leans more towards the Asphyx sound, which is incredibly evident right out of the gate (no pun intended).
This record is pretty on par with modern (underground) death metal for the time. I’m not sure I would say it’s truly caverndeath (cavernous death metal) because it is much clearer and cleaner than something like Grave Miasma or Funebrarum; it has ties to the mid-pace, groovy atmospheric riffs you can expect out of someone like Incantation, though. Which I am quite a fan off and each song has its own feeling. Some songs are punishing in a more aggressive manner, while other songs are so heavy that it just crushes you under the sheer weight of the riffs.
It is work mentioning that the tone of this record is really, really great. It has enough sheen to make every instrument noticeable. It’s not just a feast of unintelligible vocals, muddy guitars, and kick drum. It’s all there. And this helps tremendously with the first half of one of my favorite tracks off the record, Den Klentrogenes Klagan. The band incorporates a choir and keyboard. Wait, don’t run off yet, Vanhegld utilizes these layers the same way that Celtic Frost’s Necromantical Screams does, as opposed to Epica (watch at your own risk. NSFL). It doesn’t detract attention from the song as a whole, instead it amplifies the aura around the song, creating a rather occult, ritualistic vibe. It’s really, really dark and—at the same time—exciting.
The album is not a quick-fire record. The songs are methodical and by this I mean that the album does not get bogged down with too many slower tracks all bunched together and all the quicker ones thrown in at the same place. The last half of Den…Klagan is very rhythmic whereas the beginning of the following track, Temple of Phobos (Dark Descent are we seeing a pattern here?), starts off with a disgusting growl to get the song moving. A very pleasant contrast to the previous song.
Rejoice in Apathy is one of the most notable tracks just because of how forlorn it sounds. It’s angry, dark, yet incredible dark feeling. If you close your eyes, you can envision someone huddle in the corner of a dark room, past the point of hysteria, just screaming out of anger and sadness—a truly harrowing listen. I love it. Rejoice…Apathy is one of the shortest tracks on the record which sets the stage for the longest, Allt Hopp är Förbi, and as much as I would love to break down the song in its entirety, I’m going to leave that be—you’re in for a real surprise, especially if you’re patient.
This record is good. I mean really good. It hit top 5 AOTY for me on the first listen and now that I am on my third, it keeps getting better and better. But don’t just take my word for it. Go listen and then buy three copies, one for yourself, your nearest neighbor, and for that guy we all know that worships Pantera.
I would like to make a special shout-out and thank you to a friend on reddit for compiling a great introductory on Caverndeath. It is a great way to get into the style and offers a lot of good background on the bands and their individual sounds. Here’s to you, /u/HighwayCorsair.
Check ’em out here: https://pulverised.bandcamp.com/album/temple-of-phobos