VHS – Lenzi EP


Canadian slasher enthusiasts, VHS, spend most of their time watching the old video nasties, writing goregrind songs, and collaborating with other artists. What a life when you can alternate between scoffing popcorn and creating mayhem in a rehearsal room with your buddies. Can you imagine if this lifestyle generated enough income to earn a living? Maybe one day the trio behind the music might do just that. They’ve released an album, at least two accompanying EPs, and a split record every year since 2018. Scream Blast Repeat last encountered VHS on 2020’s ambitious Gore from Beyond the Stars, which created a kind of Jason X concept record to transport the blood and guts to outer space. The outcome was just as absurd as the narrative, and just as exciting. Now they take us to the jungles of Papa New Guinea for a retelling of Umberto Lenzi’s notorious 1981 film, Cannibal Ferox. But there’s a twist – the two new songs here are long-form in structure and closer to the death-doom genre than the goregrind of previous records.

The thought of a nine-minute VHS song is hard to fathom from a band the released a three-song EP of less than four minutes last year called Some Humans Taste like Dogshit (The Saga of Uncle Peckerhead). We might even call ‘Primitive and Pissed Off’ a sizeable risk. The swampy bass guitar upstrokes and censorship warning at the beginning start like a moral panic until the guitars enter at 01:35 seconds with a surprise hammer blow. Mike Hochins’ slashed-throat vocals resemble a windpipe in need of an emergency outlet for oxygen. Andy Middaugh’s drum snare resonates with the hollow bash of a human skull as he threatens to change the tempo to all-out grindcore. Maybe the best description is a goregrind version of Cancer with the might of Suffocation’s perilous downstrokes. Who’d have thought that nine minutes of torture could be so enthralling? The unfortunate blonde in Lenzi’s film is not so lucky when the noble savages of Papa New Guinea hoist her up by a hook through her breasts. (Fun fact: Chuck Schuldiner references this gruesome torture scene on Death’s Scream Bloody Gore debut from 1987.)

‘Crispy Skinned Maniacs’ breaches the ten-minute mark and creates the illusion of a torpid death-doom affair, yet the subtleties have far more to reveal. The chilling effect of the opening piano notes and spooky whistle of the keyboard notes set the scene for a gory death metal assault, but the band reduce things down to a slower tempo after two minutes. Stick with it and you’ll appreciate the snippets of hardcore and harmonic minor soloing as much as the grotesque enjoyment on the blood-stained lips of Mike Hochins. Part of the last segment will remind you of Sanguisugabogg at their most depraved, but there’s no doubt you’re listening to a VHS audio transgression. The way they intersperse their music with dramatic film dialogue creates an uneasy sensation that you’re not the only person in the morgue with your member in hand.

We can assume that album number six will follow later in the year. In the meantime, this will tidy you over until VHS unleash their next diabolical chapter.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 22/07/2022

Record Label: Life After Death Records

Standout track: Primitive and Pissed Off

Suggested Further Listening: Tenebro – Liberaci Dal Male EP (2021), Sanguisugabogg – Tortured Whole (2021), 200 Stab Wounds – Slave to the Scalpel (2021)