Having first witnessed Vacivus live in Glasgow supporting the mighty Grave Miasma in the Glasgow Audio in 2015, I had to buy the debut EP Rite of Ascension and simply get in touch with the band and followed them to this very day. While back in the beginning there could have been similarities to the aforementioned band, Vacivus have honed their own sound and matured into a band that can join the leading pack of the UK underground and beyond. Backed by the legendary underground label Profound Lore, they seem perfectly matched to make Vacivus further expand their name. What has been a strength of Vacivus is their consistency in knowing how to write a bloody good death metal song and this album showcases no different. The pressure was on for Vacivus to produce the goods now that they are signed to a reputable label and produce the goods they have.
Opening with a dark ambient mixed with piano (I can’t help but think that vocalist Nick had something to do with that) “Of Ruinous Essence” creeps in with riffs reminiscent of Inverloch in places before speed and frenetic riffs ala Dead Congregation pick up the pace. There is no chaos in the riffs; the riffs from guitarists Ross and Daniel are mid paced and full of tremolo picking down tuned perfection with no guitar wankery here. The riffs follow each other seamlessly without pause for breath and showcasing a formidable unit this band have. Vocalist Nick has managed to reach deeper into his lungs and churn out his best vocal performance throughout this record reminding me of Karl Willets on a number of occasions. Nick can on occasion change from the deepest growl to the highest screams in the blink of an eye showcasing him to be a talented frontman.
Drummer and bassist, Ian and Daniel respectively, have their work cut out keeping up with the pace set by Ross and Daniel but a huge advantage of having a steady line up is shown once again where we have two musicians who have worked together for years and know how to bring the songs together. Speaking of a steady line up, I love the touches the band have put together in some areas of the album. The riff towards the end at 2.50 of second track “Terminus” is stunning and when they play a melody over this riff which has to be heard and along with Nick’s deepest growls, it simply is inspired and certainly a favourite moment of the album for me and one that I have had to rewind and turn the volume up on many occasions.
There is something to like in every song on this record. The intricate riffs with stunning solos played over them in “In Fine Derium” like the old days. It makes you realise why you like death metal in the first place. Title track “Annihilism” for the first minute is like listening to old school Immolation for the first time which when you have listened to death metal since the late 80’s gets me smiling like the Joker. The best guitar solos are also heard on this track and reminiscent of old Morbid Angel and “Annihilism” is worthy of being the title track. Favourite track for me is closer “Ecdysis” where the clearest example of tremolo pick guitar riffs working in unison, no matter the pace, dexterity or atmosphere, everything completely fits. Simple as that. Doom riffs, masterful solos, deep growls, temp changes aplomb is where “Ecdysis” should be a template for all bands wishing to do the same style.
The cover art by Khoas Diktator is killer, the production by man of many names Greg Chandler and mastered by Dan Lowndes should show you the leap this band have taken in the last couple of years. There are comparisons to Dead Congregation throughout but also with Incantation and even new age bands like Danish masters Phrenelith. Vacivus will appeal to the more blackened death metal fan, the gut wrenching death metal fan and an old school death metal fan wishing to hark back to the old days. There are song structures in abundance, creativity en masse and vicious and punishing songs that will surely elevate Vacivus to the forefront of the UK blackened death metal scene. Vacivus have surpassed anything they have ever done before by miles and their earlier material was bloody good as well. Vacivus should be proud of what they have done here and with the backing of Profound Lore, they should reach a much wider and deserving audience for this record. Amazing vocals, crushing riffs and meticulous drumming will get Vacivus where they want to be.
Annihilism is out now