Ontario trio, VHS, are now on their fourth album and determined to take the sterile goregrind genre in a new direction. In this case a new dimension entirely, by which they mean space.
Okay, before you shake your head and smirk, no, it’s not as absurd as you think. After all, the legendary Friday the 13th horror franchise saw fit to transplant Jason Vorhees into space for the film’s tenth instalment in 2001. Why can’t extreme metal’s most crass sub-genre do the same?
Despite containing more samples than a test lab at the World Anti-Doping Agency, Gore from Beyond the Stars is a blast from start to finish. Sixteen tracks over 28 minutes gives you an idea what’s in store here, with the band drawing on the sinister humour of Macabre, the transgressive death metal of Autopsy, and the bludgeoning hostility of Exhumed.
The two-minute dungeon synth on ‘Blast Off!’ sets the mood with its spooky reverb and will remind you of Rick Wakeman’s work on the soundtrack to the classic 1983 horror film, The Burning. But this is only a prelude to the massacre that follows on the next three songs, all of which are under 1.30 seconds. The guitar distortion is sludgy, the drum snares tinny, perhaps a bit too primitive like Anal Cunt attempting a technical metal jam. Yet the first surprise arrives on the excellent ‘Earth Girls Are Easy’ with its unashamed hair metal shredding and power metal vocals sandwiched in between the death metal shrieks and stoner heavy grooves. You can expect to find Black Sabbath buried beneath the mutilated parts of a goregrind song but mixing it with Mötley Crüe is a novel idea, and one that works.
VHS know how to keep you engaged with short stabs of low-tuned death-grind but understand the need to avoid monotony with bright interludes of malicious humour and heroic rock. As a death metal band, they draw on punk for their raw energy as much as the early 90s Earache sound of Brutal Truth (see the excellent ‘Set Your Radio Dial to K I L L’). The instrumental, ‘Space Jam’, comes close to breaching the four-minute mark with its Van Halen extravaganza and sleazy heavy metal vibe. Sometimes you wonder if it’s the same band assaulting your ears.
It’s somewhat of a surprise, then, that they embrace a death-doom direction on the last quarter of the album with malevolent vocals and slower rhythms. Indeed, ‘Sealed with a Kiss’ utilises a harmonic minor scale to add more mystery to the sludge infusion. The bass is much louder on ‘You’ve Run Out of Space’ and ‘Sphere of Snapping Jaws.’ Now we’re in the Peaceville era of the early 90s instead of the Nottingham offices of Earache. It’s clear the band worship their metal as much as their VHS slasher films.
The only concern you’ll have is the stop-start flow of this record. Every song begins with an extended sample from a low budget 80s flick. Yes, this has the effect of preventing the guttural brutality from turning into one indistinguishable grind, but it also shortens the efficacy of the blood-thirsty mayhem. A couple more tracks north of three minutes would enhance the quality here.
Yet despite these minor flaws, Gore from Beyond the Stars is a pleasure to absorb and will leave you wanting more, like a ravenous zombie in search of human flesh. Listen to it and have fun. It’s not against the law, but the thoughts running through your head might be.
Release Date: 24/11/2020
Record Label: Grindhead Records
Standout tracks: Earth Girls Are Easy, Nostromo, Space Jam
Suggested Further Listening: Macabre – Grim Scary Tales (2011), Mortician – Hacked Up for Barbeque (1996), Autopsy – Severed Survival (1989)