Vektor - Outer IsolationAs I mentioned in a previous review, I like to think I value originality in music. I have little patience for bands that are merely retreads or knockoffs of other groups. So you can imagine my reaction when, a couple years ago, I stumbled on Black Future, the debut album from Arizona thrashers Vektor. The cover of that album looked like this. For those of you unaware, there is a band called Voivod. They have a logo that looks like this. “What in unholy fuck was going on here,” I thought? Is this some sort of joke? Is Vektor to Voivod what Municipal Waste is to D.R.I.? What possible motivation could a band have to do that? And more importantly, is it any good? Two years later, curiosity finally got the better of me, and I decided to check out Vektor’s newly-released follow up, Outer Isolation.

Yes, Vektor’s main reference point is Voivod, particularly their Killing Technology era. The outer-space themes, the dissonant guitar work, it’s all in there. Big surprise. But on Outer Isolation, the band manages to offset their massive debt to those Canadian legends by taking a more technical approach musically.

The opening track “Cosmic Cortex” is a 10-minute monster, laying out the foundation of the Vektor sound as it unfolds. A spaced out intro leads into twisted guitar riffing, blastbeats, and shrieking vocals over the course of this beast. Guitarists David DiSanto and Erik Nelson demonstrate considerable technical chops, owing more to Athiest or even Watchtower than to Piggy and co. Bassist Frank Chin also impresses, laying an audible foundation while also playing fast enough to keep up with Nelson and DiSanto. As the album goes on, it becomes less about individual songs than the record as a whole (again, kinda like Killing Technology). There are still plenty of standout moments, though. “Dark Creations, Dead Creators” makes use of some crafty dual-guitar harmonies, and “Fast Paced Society” is just as speedy as the title implies. I should also add that the track “Tetrastructural Minds” contains my favorite single riff of 2011 (44 seconds in). I defy you not to headbang to it.

Vektor 2011While his guitar chops are unquestionable, DiSanto has caught some shit from metal journalists concerning his vocal technique. For the most part, he utilizes a perfectly functional black metal-esque rasp. However, he also has a high-pitched shriek that he puts to use pretty liberally. Think old-school Tom Araya (and even Tom had the sense to give it a rest after about 1986). If you’re into that sort of thing, great. If not, consider yourself warned. Personally, I found the album to be so focused on the guitar work that stuff going on in the vocal department didn’t bother me much. And yes, that’s a good thing.

Generally speaking, the record is intense as hell, extremely technical at times, and almost impossibly fast. At 51 minutes long, the overall effect is almost dizzying (in a good way). This album is packed tight with great riffs and memorable parts, to a degree that it’s hard to take in all at once, but repeat listens are rewarded as more cool details make themselves known.

Outer Isolation represents Vektor coming into their own, positioning themselves miles ahead of the retro-thrash pack and even creating some distance between themselves and the band they’re obviously modeled after. Given Vektor’s obvious skill level, it’s entirely possible that they will eventually bring something new to the thrash game, much like what Revocation has been working towards. In the meantime, they’ve created a thoroughly enjoyable thrash/tech/speed beast of an album. They might want to look into a new logo thought.