Dortmund thrashers, Vulture, won many new fans with 2019’s Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves and now return with their third full-length LP and second release on Metal Blade. If you’ve already seen their video for lead single, ‘Malicious Souls’, you’ll know this band live and breathe heavy metal and even take pride in its more amusing clichés. But is there enough substance behind the cartridge belts, denim and spikes?
Vulture leave you in no doubt that they enjoy the speed metal attitude of Angel Witch and Exciter as much as the adrenaline crunch of Slayer and Exodus. You might even raise an eyebrow at the instrumental opening of ‘Danger is Imminent’ with its mystical acoustic picking and dungeon synth notes, but they waste no time in ripping through classic Megadeth on the aforementioned ‘Malicious Souls’. The guitars are free from excessive reverb, as are the vocals, especially the piercing high notes that sometimes sound like Rob Halford on a bad day. Yet the long-haired punk approach of Venom oozes with spittle and spunk, like a band aiming to scare parents into locking up their daughters when they’re riding through town.
As a Metal Blade band, it feels a bit self-referential to be emulating the early Voivod and Slayer sound in the days when the label could afford nothing approaching a good studio and audio engineer. Then it was raw, and now it feels like a reaction to the overproduced extreme metal that passes for intense in 2021. In this regard, Vulture deserve respect. ‘Count Your Blessings’ and ‘Star-Crossed City’ incorporate the noise offensive of Destruction and the anthemic choruses of NWOBHM as if the seven-string guitar and low tunings had not been invented.
Listeners will also notice the prominence of the bass guitar in the mix among the ghoulish retelling of classic gothic horror tales and egregious historical events. ‘Flee the Phantom’ thrives on a gargling low-end rhythm and d-beat drums, but the comical vocals spoil the vibe just when you’re nodding your head in appreciation of the Hell Awaits mood. The title track takes Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum for its lyrical inspiration and jousts like Venom’s ‘Countess Bathory’ but with chunkier guitars and a faster gallop. This is the point where Vulture earn the right to wear those bullet belts. They might love the self-deprecating clichés as much as the horror films that inspire them, but these Germans know how to invoke the heavy metal gods and have fun with their Marshall stacks. ‘The Court of Caligula’ is a genuine contender for thrash song of the year with its baritone gang vocals and harmonising leads. Those hungry for a dose of Kill ‘Em All-era Metallica will lap this up like a gender fluid snowflake at a #Metoo rally.
The vocals might be a bit too comical at times, but the music rocks like a motherfucker and offers no respite. Indeed, the last thing you want is a pause. Dealin’ Death is fun and fiendish, just as it should be from a thrash band with a love of horror culture and speed metal theatrics.
Release Date: 21/05/2021
Record Label: Metal Blade Records
Standout tracks: Star-Crossed City, Dealin’ Death, The Court of Caligula
Suggested Further Listening: Stälker – Black Majik Terror (2020), Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (1983), Hellripper – The Affair of the Poisons (2020)