Portugal’s Vaee Solis don’t have much experience administering slow tempo lashings steeped in thick doomy riffs, or for that matter, flogging you mercilessly with shrieks and snarls loaded with blackened ideology. It makes sense then that they’d turn to the guidance and creative output of seasoned veterans like Celtic Frost and Venom to light their path. We all know a guiding light or two can keep you focussed and headed in the right direction, but what about the few times it singes your retinas, blinding and misleading instead. This is one of those win or lose situations and I’m reporting from the frontline.
For your own sanity, position your back tight against the wall. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! “Saturn’s Storm” opens up with all the downtuned, oppressive throbbing of Celtic Frost and the slow pain coming of Skitliv. I’d say that’s a win. It has Celtic Frost‘s trademark note-bending running rampant, and crushingly heavy seems like an understatement as a descriptor. Vocals clamour for your attention very early on and while they have the intensity of the maniac behind Skitliv, they’re a little more human and different enough to catch your ear. In fact, maybe like me you’ll be taken aback when, after a couple more listens, you realize that Vaee Solis is female fronted – the banshee in charge being Sofia Loureiro (ex-We Are The Damned).
The follow up tracks contort in painstaking slowness, steadfastly hanging onto the base sound Vaee Solis achieved in “Saturn’s Storm.” Standout moments include the rough and tumble Venom or Satan’s Wrath-like intro for “Adversarial Light,” leading into weirded out, bright and shiny guitar melodies layered over soul sapping doom and gloom much like Skitliv‘s use of the same in “Hollow Devotion.” And then there’s the thrumming bass riff that João Galrito drops in at the end of “Ennoia.” All of these are a slow build up to the start of “Feral Isolation,” where you expect Kvarforth (Shining – Swedish) to step in and grind down your liver with his intoxicating theatrics. Instead you come face to face with possibly the lesser of the two evils. Beauty and the beast style shrieks and growls delivered in artistic jabs over a deathly slow, near funereal beat. It’s the thunderous, disjointed and unnerving high point to the album. The album comes to a satisfying climax with nods to Forgotten Tomb during the highlight of “Cosmocrat.”
In their infant state, Vaee Solis have done a few things right on the debut. They’ve honed their sound around some interesting and diverse musicians. They’ve delivered an album that’s just the right length, at six tracks and 39 minutes (for the avid clockwatcher, “Adversarial Light” and “Cosmocrat” could probably use some trimming). And they’ve successfully combined sharp, modern production with light, fuzzy earthiness giving Adversarial Light just the right amount of grit to have a bass riff like that in “Ennoia” rattle around in your cranium for a good few hours. Unfortunately, Adversarial Light is not without its flaws, at least three tracks begin with and/or end with siren-like effects. Using this once or twice would be okay, but having this recur with such sustained intensity ends up more annoying than not. This combined with the wearingly slow pace makes Adversarial Light come across as sometimes a little draining.
Despite Vaee Solis drawing much of their core influence and sound from bands like Celtic Frost and Skitliv, it’s still possible to pick up that they’re a skilled set of musicians with good band chemistry and I’m well impressed with this grower of a debut album. I’m even more impressed that Sofia delivers the goods with bruuutal metal chops, easily as hard-hitting as her male counterparts that dominate this doomy blackened genre. I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on Ms. Loureiro and her doom squad.