After nearly 25 years of blackened death metal across Australia, Vahrzaw might just be calling it quits. Fed up of the apparent “bullshit” (in their words) surrounding the extreme metal scene, the band have dropped one last middle finger to everyone in the shape of Husk. It’s a nasty, dark record that should entertain fans of the bleak, nightmarish side of extreme metal but it is unfortunately held back by repetition.
“The Traveller” sets out Husk’s stall rather well. It’s a heavy track with a meaty riff played to a blistering pace. However, let down by production, the speedy aggression is buried under disappointing, washy use of the hi-hat and overuse of the double-bass pedal. Mercifully, there are moments throughout the album that slow down, letting Scott Williams’ excellent guitar work take hold as it claws at you with a devilish glee. The riffs in Husk are consistently great throughout and accompany the vocals expertly.
Speaking of – Van Dorn’s vocal delivery is dark, murky and ghoulish, his mixing of higher and lower harsh vocals effortless and a highlight of the album. He brings powerful roars and menacing screams to the table alongside a murky midrange. It’s just a shame that the songwriting behind Van Dorn’s vocals is not as solid. Yes, the riffs are all good, until they are swallowed by pace for the sake of pace. There isn’t enough groove here to let its talent stand out. Killer moments such as the Slayer-esque opening to “Husk” do make up for the repetition to some extent, but you’ll find it difficult to pick one track out from another.
Each song here contains similar elements. Sure, there is some chopping and changing to the tempo, and some more melodic moments are thrown in for good measure from time to time, but these act as tasters to what could have been. Each song becomes bogged down in pace, making light of the talents involved. “The King in Yellow” provides a solid example of such writing. It swirls around a beefy central riff, with quality melodic moments thrown into a blender alongside pure pace. It’s the best track of the record, but it displays an unwillingness to move beyond blistering pace despite showing moments of tranquility and groove. “The Epitaph of Garmonbozia (Part I & II)” is much the same, albeit showing more progression thanks to some atmospherics. There are plenty of moments to be found lurking, but much of it becomes too familiar too quickly. These two tracks in the middle of the record, – alongside the dark, twisted record closing “Husk” – are barnstormers, however, and well worth a listen.
Get a full sampling of the entire Husk album below.
Extreme metal fans should have a field day with what could be Vahrzaw’s last record. It’s a solid album filled with moments of dark melody and awesome riffs, but it’s held back by its unrelenting and overbearing use of pure speed. It’s sad to see that the band likely won’t be returning after Husk, as a follow-up that’s more progressive, with a healthier mix of melody and atmosphere would be sensational.
Husk Track Listing:
01. The Traveller
02. Friends in the Aether
03. Black Night by Firelight
04. The King in Yellow
05. The Epitaph of Garmonbozia (Part I & II)
06. House of the Red & White Lions
07. Kneel Kiss Kill
Run Time: 35:34
Release Date: April 23, 2018