Vehemence_Forward Without Motion1Gather round, I have a story for ye. Back in 2002, a Phoenix-based death metal group called Vehemence released an album called God Was Created, a work that escaped widespread popularity to essentially become the little engine that could – a cult classic of the genre, if you will. Far from conventional, Created had an odd sound that was melodic without a hint of Gothenburg, preferring instead riffs that combined the open-strummed hardiness of Arghoslent with the evocative melodies of Intestine Baalism. More importantly, it showed a band tossing aside genre conventions to let blossom their bizarre vision and ambition. A concept album about a young man’s fatal obsession with a devoutly religious schoolgirl, Created combined acoustic strumming, sullen spoken word, and guitarwork that alternated between demented and achingly gorgeous, all into an hour-long journey of sexual Jesus fantasies and necrophilia.

All told, it’s actually a brilliant record, and contains one of my favorite guitar riffs of all time. Unfortunately, 2004 follow-up Helping the World to See was the doomed ‘pretty good’ album that followed the classic, earning significantly less praise and coming just before Vehemence’s dissolution in 2005. After reuniting and performing live for several years, the quintet is back with Forward Without Motion. Is it the God Was Created Part II that I was hoping for?

Not quite, but Forward is still a great album in its own right. Right from the start, opener “I Don’t Want To Look Inside” shows there are some clear differences from the Vehemence of old: gone are Nathan Gearhart’s near-brutal death gutturals, which he’s replaced with a higher register growl. Likewise, the production has been revamped to be more modern and vibrant, leading to an unfortunately compressed range and clicky bass drums, but with the welcome addition of better separation between the melodies and the underlying riffing.

And just like Created, it’s those melodies that truly shine. Early highlight “Murdered by the Earth” features pompous rhythm guitars that lead into a terrific old-school solo and a rapturous closing lead, made all the better by the strummed acoustic chords which fade in underneath. Likewise, personal favorite “She Fucks Like She’s Alive” (song title of the year!) tosses in big, triumphant riffs that present an interesting dichotomy between the song’s theme and its music, before a roar of the song’s title beckons a wicked little harmonized riff. Similarly, the lyrical themes continue Created’s explorations of the frightening depths of fanatical devotion, with “Jim the Prophet” recounting the infamous Jonestown suicides by riding a slithering, clean main riff to its closing sample of Jim Jones himself. Follow-up “In The Shadows We Dwell” breaks this measured tempo for a thrashy Deceased-style riff that sounds goddamn hungry.

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Admittedly, for all the good moments, there is some fat to be trimmed: second track “Imagining the Loss” is something of a flat moment early in the album, while “A Dark Figure in the Distance” may not have needed an eight-plus minute runtime. Honestly, Vehemence have never been particularly incredible songwriters – even Created felt at times like it stumbled upon greatness rather than intentionally crafting it – but, oddly enough, that actually works to the band’s favor. With their dogged tendency to string ideas together without rush, sometimes never to return to them, the better songs come across less like overcooked compositions and more like natural journeys from one twisted riff to another – the best examples being the aforementioned “She Fucks” and “Look Inside.”

With this, I guess the best thing about Forward is that it’s a comeback record free of the sense that past work was analyzed under a microscope, or knobs were excessively tweaked in a vain attempt to recreate times gone. The signature sound is here, but Vehemence sound fresh, inspired, and, most notably, mature. As the twirling, barreling melodeath of three-and-a-half minute “It’s All My Fault” show, the group know when to hit hard and direct, while the superb soloing and echoey clean picking show they haven’t forgotten the importance of dynamics in an album over 56 minutes long. Created may never be… uh, recreated, but Forward is still an exciting new yarn in the Vehemence storybook, showing immense promise and undoubtedly bringing in a new crop of fans who don’t mind some melody and corpse-lovin’ in their death metal. Recommended.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Battleground Records
Website: vehemenceofficial.bandcamp.com facebook.com/vehemenceofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 23rd, 2015

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  • IPAs_Stouts

    I was glad to hear they were coming back. And this album doesn’t disappoint longtime fans.

  • John Mosley

    I am wallowing in a mire of old-school, death metal nostalgia of late. Cerekloth, Horrendous, now these brutes. Wallowing.

    • New Cerekloth? How did I miss that?!

      • Luke_22

        Nah he must be referring to their last album. Sadly I think Cerekloth are no more.

      • John Mosley

        Yeah, my bad not a new Cerekloth album. Was just turned on to their 2013 release.

  • You wot m8?

    This is right up my alley. Goddamn it, another record I must now buy! WHY IS OCTOBER SOO GOOD?! Soon I’ll be living on the street with one big collection of excellent metal CD’s and a toaster.

    • SelfIndulgence

      Honestly they have no respect for our wallets. Must be the snobbery.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Maybe bands know this is the right time of the year to release an album and get it in year end lists.

  • El_Cuervo

    The sample song sounds solid. But fuck me that God Was Created album is genius. I love it.

  • Pimpolho

    The drums sounds a bit funny…

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    “She Fucks Like She’s Alive” song title of the year? Mark Z, you´re a sick puppy!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I love how this guys pack a LOT of melody into their Death metal without sounding like Iron Maiden or Gothenburg.

  • Name’s Dalton

    Pardon me but holy fucking shit yeah!

  • Wilhelm

    I like the music – melodic, catchy take on death metal. I just wish they would open up the dynamics a bit.

    • Luke_22

      Not a fan of the production overall, I think it holds the album back a bit. The drums sound especially weak, but the finished recording sounds..well a bit unfinished to me.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Even with a sub-par production, this is an awesome release. Love the riffing. These guys are tight.

  • Luke_22

    Good review Mark. God was Created is indeed a cult classic. This took a while to sink in for me but it has definitely grown on me. Very solid comeback overall.

  • Oh this is nice. I really do prefer these kind of vocals over the out-of-the-toes brutal stuff, which kind of put me off God Was Created.

  • chris

    I have that cd and i remember telling everyone this is special and a little bit different.
    Wow
    So many years on.
    And yes there is a riff in on that album that is the best of all time. I am serious.
    .

  • Crapola

    Great band! Seen these guys with Akercocke back in the day INCREDIBLE show! New album is killer!

  • Sightless Wisdom

    My initial reaction to the new track is that it’s not quite up to par with their early material but at any rate it’s nice to see these guys back at it and I look forward to checking out the full album! Anyone unfamiliar with the band – check out the songs ‘Trinity Broadcasting (Know Your Enemy)’ or ‘You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Anymore’ from their previous album as they display a great balance of melody and brutality.

    • Geoffrey Russell

      You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Anymore is one of my all-time favorite songs.

  • Geoffrey Russell

    Imagining the Loss is the song that got me into this album. I feel like you just wrote that as part of a stilted paragraph about the weaker areas of the album–typical of many reviews. You should listen to the song again. It’s great. ALL these sounds are great. I’d like to know of other bands who took such long hiatuses and then came back to put out records that literally were just like their amazing old stuff. I don’t know any…