Verminthrone – The Cull


Verminthrone are one of the success stories of the last three years. Five men who look like they belong on a building site, the sludge quintet from Buckinghamshire played Bloodstock 2022 as winners of the Milton Keynes Metal 2 the Masses heat. Support slots with SikTh and Eyehategod followed, along with their debut EP. Last month they joined Hang the Bastard and Burner on their home patch. So, what should we make of the debut album from a band SBR once described as ‘more dangerous than a plague of locusts with a harvest of corn in its sights’?

This is a band experiencing a collective highpoint of confidence in what they do. You can hear it in their riffs and feel it in your chest. Vocalist, Dan Banshaw, shows what’s possible with an extra helping of Shredded Wheat for breakfast. Opener, ‘Don’t Trust Morning People’, is heavier than David Ike’s notebook of conspiracy theories. You can choreograph to this in an interval training motion on the rowing machine. Verminthrone love groove but recognise that you can make it throb like a bull in the streets of Madrid. Plectrums tug at the strings of their guitars like rock climbing anchors searching for cracks. Can you feel your legs giving way at 02:45 as the boulder loses its battle with gravity and pushes you down the hill? They sneak a pentatonic stoner riff into the outro, but the vocals stay at the highest level of murderous rage.

Guitars glide like military drones on a mission to lay waste to an enemy camp in ‘It Always Snows in South America’. The palm-muted accents wield their power with wild stabbing motions as Banshaw subjects his lungs to a torrent of abuse to release the vitriol inside. There’s nothing sludgy about the guitar tone – the high-treble settings are synonymous with thrash metal, the tunings with groove metal. Yet you still feel like you’re dragging a horse and cart through the marshes with superhuman strength. Lead single, ‘Kuru’, is metal music for hod carriers, yet it also encroaches on black metal territory in the atonal hostility of the chorus. Think of it as Pantera playing Eyehategod with a momentous John Bonham groove. Verminthrone’s purpose is to combine orgasmic riffing with inhuman aggression in a swaying motion that challenges the thermodynamic laws of balance. The noise will leave your nose stinging with that chlorine scent that lingers on your nostrils when you step out of the swimming pool.

This album’s biggest strength is that it needs no palette cleanser or refuelling point. ‘Birth is a Rope // Death is a Knot’ and ‘Pulling Teeth (Spitting Blood)’ vibrate like military tanks hammering their engines with stubborn force in the wetlands of enemy territory. A Black Sabbath doom ceremony sets the scene in the latter for wah-wah guitars to warn of the grim reaper’s imminent arrival. Here, Banshaw unleashes his bloodlust like a man force-fed raw meat until he can no longer breathe through his nose. The guitars are thicker than the walls of R Kelly’s jail cell.

Why do teenagers and millennials not play this type of music until they reach their thirties? Is there anything as masculine and yet so willing to rip its heart out for you in a symbolic spillage of blood? This band’s main purpose is to deal in harsh truths. Those of us that have had more five o’clock starts than hot dinners need this as sustenance. Verminthrone go for the Urne approach to landing their guitars like an out-of-control cruise ship smashing into the Venice harbour in ‘Youth for Euthanasia’. Prong’s Tommy Victor would be proud of the headline riff in ‘Aorta’. Half-timing in the chorus only enhances the muscular crunch of the guitars. If this song isn’t groove metal, what is?

Readers of SBR like their metal to be abrasive and unashamed of its steroid power. Verminthrone are happy to provide your daily fix. You’ll need to prepare for the growl of the bass strings in closing track, ‘Feral’, as they echo the syncopated chug movements in the middle-eight like autonomous shadows. We’re in tough-guy hardcore territory now, yet it feels like Orange Goblin behind the amps.

The way Verminthrone capture the energy of their live sound is one of many triumphs on this debut LP. Do you want to feel invincible and righteous in your anger? Of course, you do…

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 16/02/2024

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: It Always Snows in South America, Pulling Teeth (Spitting Blood), Aorta

Suggested Further Listening: Coffin Torture – Blennoid (2022), Superjoint Ritual – Use Once and Destroy (2002), Irist – Gloria EP (2022)