We are three years shy of entering a new decade, and yet we can’t seem to leave the 80s behind. Yes, it was a magical decade, indeed. Iron Maiden was absolutely unfuckwithable, releasing flawless album after flawless album. It was a decade that saw the birth of thrash, death, and black metal. Yet, for all the magic that decade created, bands can’t seem to move forward. Rather, the incessant mining of bygone sounds continues unabated to this day, often with meager returns. For their second full-length, With Primeval Force, Sweden’s Vampire rattles off the usual suspects when it comes to their throwback sound, citing BathoryMercyful Fate, and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, you can’t help but… wait, fucking Castlevania?! And a criminally underrated game in that series to boot? Really?

Yes, really! Within seconds of opener “Knights of the Burning Crypt,” you can’t help but imagine an 8-bit Simon Belmont shuffling to the right and whipping skeletons and werewolves while lamenting about what a horrible night it is to have a curse. Guitarists Black String and Sepulchral Condor’s riffing and melodies capture the aesthetic of Castlevania flawlessly, all while retaining the spirit of the 80s thrash and death metal sound. Vocalist Hand of Doom maintains an old-school rasp, adding a bit of a Possessed vibe to the music, while musically it balances between classic Slayer, a touch of Mercyful Fate, and sprinkles of NWOBHM melodies and motifs. Not a bad start to get your listening adventure on its merry way, indeed.

With Primeval Force doesn’t let up in the intensity one bit in its 38-minutes of retro metal. “Metamorfosis” opens with a “Bark at the Moon”-esque riff before pummeling forth with some incredible drum fills by Abysmal Condor. Standout “Midnight Trail” skirts effortlessly between very early Iron Maiden atmospherics and a rapid-fire Slayer vocal delivery. The atmospheric “Initiation Rite” builds to such an energetic, rumbling end that you can’t help but windmill. That’s the ticket to how good this album is, for as old-school this all sounds, there’s an intangible energy that ripples throughout With Primeval Force. Instead of sounding old-school for the sake of sounding old-school, Vampire took their influences, and injected a fuck-ton of energy and sharp songwriting skills into them, crafting a tight set of nine songs that will get you hunting for hearts inside of candles in no time.

Yet, not all is an astounding victory. While there isn’t a single bad song on With Primeval Force, repetition does rear its ugly head every now and then, giving the album a bit of a “been there, done that” vibe, but not to such a degree where it kills it deader than a stake through the heart. Another bone of contention lies in the Nacksving Studios (Dark TranquilityOpeth) production. Despite the lack of dynamics, it does sound warm, but Command’s bass playing does sound flat and punchless. It’s heard, but not exactly felt. But I will take this over yet another round of retro-doom any day. The heart and soul of the 80s was captured gloriously, yet still sounds somewhat modern. That’s not easy to accomplish.

I admit I went into With Primeval Force with the same enthusiasm as Simon does, jumping on clock gears while avoiding flying medusa heads in a clock tower. By the end of the album, I was overcome with the same amount of joy one receives when they unearth a fully-cooked, practically flawless turkey dinner by whipping their staircase. Vampire struck Gothic gold here, and I can’t wait to give it another listen. This is retro done right. Simon Belmont would be proud.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: vampireband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/vampiretheband
Releases Worldwide: April 21st, 2017

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  • Zach Ward

    80s were overrated lol

    • That’s it. A time-out for you young lad. Now go to the naughty corner, and stay there!

    • Grymm

      My Teddy Ruxpin with Possessed’s Seven Chruches cassette stuck in it would like to have a word with you…

    • metalcasket

      Leave the hall.

    • Reese Burns

      I was always partial to the 90s for the sheer force of the Norwegian black metal scene.

      • I guess that’s allowed. As long as you don’t talk shit about the golden age.
        Måtte kong Satan være med deg!

      • PanzerFistDominatrix

        I with you on the ’90s, though I was into death metal. Sure, both genres can be traced to 80s bands but didn’t take off for real ’till the 90s.
        I guess most of us are partial to whatever decade we spent our metal teen years in though…

        • Reese Burns

          I was actually born in 99. I suppose I just sort of gravitated more towards black metal than death. It always gets under my skin when people say metal shit itself in the 90s, even though mainstream metal was at an all time low, underground metal was absolutely thriving.

          • PanzerFistDominatrix

            Oh, okay – your teens are just drawing to a close then. Bang dat head!

            But now is a good time for metal all around if you ask me. Good albums spewing out in many subgenres, never been easier for small bands to promote or publish themselves online. Hard to make money on albums, granted – but that means more tours, more shows and more live metal for us!

            I was born in 1980 btw, from Copenhagen Denmark.

          • You guys are freakin’ young!!

          • PanzerFistDominatrix

            Let me paint a picture of my age this way: I went to a Persefone concert two days ago (very good btw). I ironed my shirt before going but still got in the pit.

          • Reese Burns

            I’m from Ontario, Canada. Unfortunately, there’s not a crazy amount of tours where I am, aside from bands playing the stadium circuit in Toronto, but I agree, the amount of excellent music being produced now is something completely new, with all the new ways to easily get your music out there, it gets a bit hard sometimes to sort out all the bands that are the best of the best. Which is a pretty good problem to have, if you ask me!

          • PanzerFistDominatrix

            Big ass country, hard to tour I guess – but Toronto is not on the circuit for Canadian, US or bigger European bands?

          • Reese Burns

            Every once in a while there’ll be a big band that rolls through, like Anthrax, Iron Maiden, etc, but I’ve never been one for big crowds. The only stadium show I’m planning on going to is Avenged Sevenfold/Metallica this summer. But other than the headline-tier bands, we don’t get a crazy amount of tours, and at least where I am, the local underground scene is practically nonexistent, which blows. Though every once in a while, my buddies and I swing over to Québec, since the local black metal scene there is absolutely booming.

          • PanzerFistDominatrix

            Québec you say – you most crowdfund some of those weird ass black metal Frenchies to come play for you and bond with the old country. You can have literal cheesy metal and still be black as fuck. Comté-core I shall label it!

          • Reese Burns

            Absolutely! And if there’s one Quebec band you oughta check out, it’s Cantique Lepreux. They’re fantastic! I’m definitely hoping to make it to one of their shows one day.

          • Hulksteraus

            The metal Gods have been kinder to OZ. We have headliners, a good local scene and the Scandi’s love us with all their blackened hearts :)

          • Reese Burns

            Lucky. The best I’ve got in my hometown is a couple of drunken punk bands. Though further up in Oshawa we had the fantastic duo of Hail the Villain and Protest the Hero. Unfortunately Hail the Villain called it quits a while ago, though the singer’s new band, Six Side Die put out one of my contenders for Record o the Year… so basically what I’m saying is we’ve not got much, but I suppose what we do have is pretty good.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Where in Ontario are you? I lived in Canada for about four years, two years in Welland, two years in Oakville. I got to see many a good show in Toronto, mostly by well known bands.

          • Reese Burns

            Sort of a nowhere town called Lindsay. We’re relatively close to Oshawa, and pretty near to Peterborough and Fenlon Falls

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            You didn’t name a single place I ever heard of, except for Oshawa… ;)
            How far from Toronto is Lindsay?

          • Reese Burns

            Hour and a half, two hours if you hit nasty traffic. Fun fact though, we were the home of the one-and-only (attempted) bull fight in Canada. So… there’s that, I suppose.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Bull fights… not something I support. I guess there must be a big Spaniard and/or Latin American community there if they tried to get a bull fight going.

          • Reese Burns

            You’d think so, but no. That’s one of the weird things about it. But from the way my grandfather describes the story, the whole thing was a train wreck. The first bull refused to fight and the second attacked the chief of police. Neither one was killed, and since most of the people who attended crashed the gate, they lost a ton of money. So I suppose the bulls ended up being the real winners.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            My favorite kind of bull fight is whenever the bull wins!

          • Hulksteraus

            Young Whippersnapper… ’76 for me… although Steely D and Al K are definitely older, and I suspect Thatguy is as well given his curmudgeonly attitude :)

  • Eldritch Elitist

    “A practically flawless turkey dinner”

    I’ve always called it “Wall Chicken.”

  • Ferrous Beuller

    WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A great death metal album thrust into my ears.

  • Reese Burns

    This is fucking glorious. In every sense of the word. And that cover art! Absolutely gorgeous.

    • ashcindersmoke

      That cover art really is incredible.

  • Francesco Bordoni

    …fuck Castlevania II though

    • Grymm

      My second-favorite entry in the series behind Symphony of the Night.

      • Bearded_Relic

        As a Sega kid I’ve never had the pleasure of Castlevania II – I should probably remedy that one of these days – loved every second of SOTN though. And I’ve been really looking forward to this release – nice to see some others getting into it too!

      • Francesco Bordoni

        I and III were vastly superior – hard as shit, but more enjoyable, rewarding and straight-forward.

        II? Hours of senseless grinding, cryptic shit all over and CRYPTIC TIL DUMBNESS select the stupid diamond kneel for n seconds and a tornado WHAT? – how could you figure out something like that without a walkthrough and OH THE HORRIBLE NIGHT HAS BEEN VANQUISHED should I go on?

    • Drew Music

      I don’t know if it ever got big enough that many people will remember, but that pic also strongly conjures up fond recollections of Monster Bash, an old DOS shareware game. What a glorious, understated time for PC games that was, when Apogee and ID were similarly unfuckwithable.

    • Levly

      Casltevania II was amazing! The only one before Symphony to include a fully interconnected world and such an epic sense of adventure. One of my favorite games on the NES.

    • LExpoZiod

      I concur. Castlevania II sucks ass.

      • Francesco Bordoni

        Amen brother

    • Wilhelm

      Castlevania II was a masterpiece

  • jolly cooperation

    This gets 4.0 while Infrared Horizon gets 3.0? I’m done, I’m soooooo done

    • ashcindersmoke

      Praise the sun!

    • Grymm

      I didn’t review Infrared Horizon, so…

      • SegaGenitals

        May we ask your assessment of IR?

        • Grymm

          I haven’t listened to it yet.

    • Both are 3.0 imo.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Is “sprinkles” an approved word in the AMG Style Guide?

    • Grymm

      IT IS NOW!

  • Drew Music

    I kinda feel like that picture would be more at home on a review of the new Ghost Bath album.

  • Eli Valcik

    Amother instance of “please be good, I love the album art”

    • ssorg

      It is good. Somehow scratches the same itch as Sworn to the Dark-era Watain or even D666 and Deathhammer. Angry and mean metal with a sense of melody and riffcraft.

  • Westpaceagle

    We’re old. NES rules though

    • Grymm

      Clash at Demonhead FTW!

    • RuySan

      I’m more of an Amiga man, but Castlevania rules supreme

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I love how you started the review by complaining about the inability to leave the 80s behind, then turned it into a paean to a few of the things that made the 80s great.

    • Grymm

      My sense of duality is like that.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Sense of duality? Is that your superpower?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra
    • Grymm

      Okay, WANT.

    • Westpaceagle

      Woa. Is that real? Hey anybody play bionic commando? That was my favorite obscure NES game. At the end there was a curse word and when you won hitlers head exploded

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        As far as I can tell, it is an actual cushion they sell for real. Just type “unicorn nes” on Google.

      • Grymm

        I LOVE Bionic Commando!

        Speaking of WTF gaming moments, do a YouTube search for “Hong Kong 97 game”. So much wrong there. Angry Video Game Nerd talks about it, and… yeah.

        • spoon dog

          Thanks for the link, been watching lots of these retro and obscure gaming vids, this is the weirdest yet.

          • Grymm

            You are most welcome… I think.

        • André Snyde Lopes

          Second time the AVGN is mentioned here this week, wtf?

          • Grymm

            I haven’t watched his videos in ages, and I happened upon that one.

            That one five-second loop of that song won’t leave my head.

        • jetblindracos

          Me too.

  • Gena Gorin

    This game sucks

  • gr8fl

    Can’t find this release on bandcamp.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Yea, it’s not there. Found it on iTunes, and a stream on Spotify.

  • Jeffrey Dean

    I want this on vinyl, if only for the amazing cover art.

  • El_Cuervo

    Colour me intrigued Brother G.

  • The Unicorn

    pixel art is fucking KILLER. And a great review to boot! And the music? I made boom-boom in my pants.

  • Tofu muncher

    A strong candidate for ROTM for sure.

  • Bryan Stroup

    Not sold on the vocals yet, but the music is hitting all the right notes for me.

  • Sean Sky

    Sat with this one today and while it’s good, I don’t know if it’s 4.0 material. I don’t think anything about it was memorable enough to warrant revisits later on.

  • 2_Wycked

    Recognized that Nick Keller artwork from a mile away. Glad the music lives up to it!

  • h_f_m

    I usually play “guess the score” with the embed before I scroll far enough to see it. obviously got this one wrong.

  • Acid Spine

    “I was overcome with the same amount of joy one receives when they
    unearth a fully-cooked, practically flawless turkey dinner by whipping
    their staircase.” <– What does that even mean?

    • Grymm

      Months later, and I *just* got to your message.

      To answer: play any older Castlevania game, and ship a staircase. You will find a fully-cooked turkey that heals you completely.