Vaulted – Left in Despair


Metallic hardcore and death metal have the same goal – to be as nasty and ugly as possible through the weapon of murderous aggression. It’s no surprise that the two have become aligned over the last decade with bands like Gatecreeper and Fuming Mouth spearheading a crusty form of death metal that ignores the breakdown-mania of deathcore and ramps up the muscular transgression of hardcore punk. Boston’s Vaulted tread a similar path but put an emphasis on the bass-grinding groove of early Sepultura and Hatebreed to round out the intensity levels. Left in Despair will leave you burying the knuckles of your right hand into your left palm while nodding your head in approval.

Taking the hardcore approach to death metal means stripping it of technical extravagance and any other components that will distract it from the objective of producing an eye-expanding rage of monstrous proportions. In other words, the artists like the awesome aggression, speed levels, and rhythm guitar techniques of death metal but prefer the no-nonsense delivery of hardcore punk. Vaulted start their first track, ‘Forged in Darkness’, with a hostile roar and a guitar tone that beatdown bands from the early 1990s used to cherish as their main audio weapon. Unlike the pioneers from that era, they put a premium on atmospherics. Listen for the elements beneath the distorted bass and chunky riffing, and you’ll hear a claustrophobic insecurity emerge. ‘Mote it Be’ writhes in a sludgy groove that Sepultura trademarked c.1993-1996. The simple minor chord progression will remind you of vintage Celtic Frost in their prime. This is crusty death metal locked in the anguish of a slow grinding apparatus that makes exceptions for nobody and respects no one.

Guitarist, Christian Henderson, has perhaps the toughest job in the quartet. His hands have the responsibility to straddle the line between the two schools, and he often chooses Entombed and Obituary over Integrity and Earth Crisis. This culminates in a refreshing approach to the tremolo riffs that black metal bands sterilised years ago with overkill. Dan Leahy’s bass tremors give Henderson an ideal platform to experiment with mid-range string patterns of a sludgy texture on ‘Left in Despair’ and ‘Supreme Beings’. But Vaulted are at their best when they combine them with that favourite of beatdown hardcore – the downpicking chug riff. ‘Reincarnate Eternal’ mixes the grotty bass of Napalm Death’s ‘The Kill’ with the crunch of the latest Nervochaos album. One wonders if the studio owners had to dig up the carpet when the band members laid down their ghost tracks for this song. The low frequency reverberations will tighten against your throat like an invisible pair of hands. ‘Horizon of Thorns’ is just as damaging to your physical health and just as enjoyable.

Left in Despair has its moments of repetition, like most records that focus on aggression with a basic set-up of instruments and little in the way of variation. ‘Lacerated’ is indistinguishable from modern Napalm Death. ‘Mortal Sands of Time’ threatens to lose your attention until a remarkable middle-eight punch of guitar and bass ambushes you like a camouflaged pillbox opening fire on an unsuspecting patrol of soldiers. End track, ‘Shallow Vacancy’, is most notable for its consistency in providing a snapshot of the entire album in three minutes and thirty-four seconds. We get the testosterone rage, the violent chugs, the tremolo passages, the bass gurgles, the atmospheric mid-range – it’s a successful combination, even if its predictable after six tracks.

Vaulted show here that they’re more inclined to continue down the death metal path than the gravel pit of metallic hardcore, yet Left in Despair strikes an impressive balance between the two. Album number three might be the one that sees them find their ideal sound, but this effort could prove to be a critical development in their career.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 19/11/2021

Record Label: War Fever Recordings

Standout tracks: Mote it Be, Reincarnate Eternal, Mortal Sands of Time

Suggested Further Listening: Nervochaos – Dug Up (Diabolical Incarnations) (2021), Sepultura – Chaos AD (1993), Mental Cavity – Mass Rebel Infest (2021)