Two years ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing The Monolith Deathcult‘s 2015 EP Bloodcvlts. And by “pleasure,” I mean something else entirely. The band is everything Leave It to Beaver‘s Eddie Haskell could be in reality. At first, the band seems like a serious, straight-laced Dutch death metal group. They’re polite and always outgoing, straight-to-the-point and never misleading. Then you discover the truth: that’s all bullshit. In reality, these guys are about as serious as a rabbit challenging a bulldozer. Their promo sheets are comic genius, their sound-clipped records induce eye rolling, and their mix of brutal, industrial, and symphonic death is a mindfuck. The moment you take them seriously, they come out on pogo-sticks. The moment you begin to laugh, they knock your teeth out. But, unlike the sometimes silly Bloodcvlts, Versvs 1 is as serious as cancer. Well, maybe not that one part. Oh, wait… No, that’s a pretty serious part. I think… Actually… I have no fucking clue anymore.

Because Haskell strikes when you least expect it. After checking out tracks like the gut-shredding “The Furious Gods” and “Die Glocke,” one would expect blank-faced solemnity from the band. But, that’s just silly. Instead, you get the opener and its Rod Serling-like monologue behind the ridiculous crack and crunch of a beer can. And then you get “Seven Months of Mysticum” and “From the Stalinic Perspective.” Two tracks you discover to be reimaginings of The White Crematorium‘s “7 Months of Suffering” and “The White Crematorium,” respectively. The other thing you discover is that Versvs 1 is “Part 1” of a three-part project. A project that, once completed, will be known simply as V. After fucking with you yet again, you regain your bearings and decide to give the rest of the album a chance. Because, though it may sound like it, this is no The White Crematorium 2.0 (The Revenge of the Failed).

Instead, these rehashings are legit; modernizing their counterparts and adding bucket-loads of Septicflesh orchestrations. Hell, in some respects, I actually like these versions better than the originals. Furthermore, the additions and subtractions to the songs contribute well to the album’s character. “Seven Months of Mysticum” unleashes a teeth-grinding, industrial-tinged assault two minutes in and “From the Stalinic Perspective” closes out the record with massive vocals, guitars, orchestration, and touches of a haunting piano to drive it home.

But, it’s decimators like “The Furious Gods,” “Uchronian March of the Deathcults,” and “This Inhuman Place Makes Human Monsters” that keep me coming back. Each has a march that fits the individual song’s theme like a glove. Concepts include Nazi occult fascinations and the horrors of Stalin’s Red Army. On top of the ripping riffs, alternating rasps and deep-throated grunts, there exists a holistic machine-shop feel to the songs. In particular, the machine-like gratings and heavings are unique to the hammer-on-anvil poundings of Ministry. While “The Furious Gods” and “This Inhuman Place Makes Human Monsters” do it via intense pummeling and exaggerated vocals/sound-clips, “Uchronian March of the Deathcults” achieves it in a way that feels like hopelessness. Like being trapped in a medieval dungeon with the vocal support of Sigh. Some are lengthy, but all are gripping. I, for one, can’t get enough of the catchiness of “The Furious Gods” and the ball-busting riff that splits “This Inhuman Place Makes Human Monsters” wide open.

Though the album is a crushing behemoth, the sporadic use of Rod Serling-like narration throughout (especially in opener “Rod Serling’s Radio Dramas”) and the absurd stories about secret Nazi time machines (“Die Glocke”) remind us all who we’re dealing with. It’s made even more apparent with the latter’s odd, yet badass, acoustic guitar interlude. Perhaps the only real issue I have with Versvs 1 is its clunky flow. Especially in comparison to records like Trivmvirate and Tetragrammaton. But, knowing the band, this was probably intentional. Regardless, Versvs 1 is better than Bloodcvlts and it has me excited for the next stage of the upcoming trilogy. So, come one and all. Partake in the jokes, overindulge in the metal.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Hammerheart Records
Releases Worldwide: May 19th, 2017