Vhol_DeeperThanSky_01Bay area supergroup Vhöl seemed to come out of nowhere with their self-titled 2013 debut. Led by Hammers of Misfortune/Ludicra guitarist John Cobbett, Vhöl contains members from both bands but proved to be a different beast entirely, combining disparate elements and metal subgenres into something truly original. Two years later, the follow-up Deeper Than Sky arrives, and given the band’s pedigree and the quality of the debut, my expectations are high.

Opening with some Wyld Stallyns-esque guitar noodling, “The Desolate Damned” kicks the door down with riffs that reek of classic metal, yet tinted by the weirdness that Vhöl seems to emanate easily. “3 AM” explores the punk/hardcore side of the coin, with Scheidt’s rapid-fire delivery channeling Minor Threat in particular, although the song also boasts a near-operatic chorus and plenty of sideways metal riffage as well. Fans of Vhöl‘s debut record will also notice the massively improved production, which boasts a cleaner, less muffled sound without drastically altering much else.

Up next is the title track, a 12-minute monstrosity that explores several different moods and styles. While fundamentally rooted in thrash metal, the song also contains detours into psychedelia, female choral vocals, and, at the eight-minute mark, one of the sickest slide guitar riffs in metal history. Comparing it to Leviathan-era Mastodon doesn’t nearly do it justice, but this track is similar in scope.

Instrumental “Paino” serves as the album’s halftime show, crossbreeding a Voivod bassline with silent-movie piano soloing to create a really weird beast. I have no idea who’s playing piano on this one (probably bassist Sigrid Sheie, also the keyboardist in Hammers of Misfortune), but I’ve not heard anything quite like it. After that, the second half of Sky proceeds to get even heavier and weirder. “Red Chaos” approaches old-school Slayer levels of speed and fury, while the eight-minute “Lightless Sun” appropriates blastbeats and trem picking for it’s own prog-metal purposes, and somewhat scratches the itch left by Ludicra‘s demise. Closer “The Tomb” is even more rabid, while still finding room for the melodic flourishes that are the band’s trademark.

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As always, Aesop Dekker (Agalloch) attacks the drum kit with the primal force he’s become known for. Sheie’s bass is distorted and grinding, if not quite as overbearing as on the debut, and her backing vocals are an integral part of this record. Vocalist Mike Scheidt (Yob) is still a bit polarizing to me. I was not a fan of his clean vocals on the debut, and hearing them louder and clearer on Sky has not changed my mind. However, he does bring a certain energy to the screaming sections that I can appreciate. More to the point, the vocals are not the reason I am listening to this album (no offense to Mr. Scheidt if he’s reading this).

It’s hard for me to write about John Cobbett without getting hyperbolic, but he truly is an unsung hero in present-day metal. Stylistically, he’s a descendant of founding fathers like Iommi, Blackmore and Lifeson, while also taking cues from ’80s hardcore, the Voivod/Coroner school of weirdness, and even early black metal. As a result, he’s working with a much wider palette than most, both as a composer and as a guitarist. There are moments on Sky where it feels like Cobbett is a practitioner of some kind of lost art, and while his playing is unique, it also feels familiar, and right.

So there you go. If you hate heavy metal, or riffs, or fun, definitely don’t check out Deeper Than Sky.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore
Websites: Facebook.com/vholisvhol
Releases Worldwide: October 2nd, 2015

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  • lennymccall

    Looking forward to rocking this so hard. That first song released was an atom bomb! LOVED the first record but this one seems to be a little bit (total shift?) of a different animal.

    • Dr_Fisting

      I wouldn’t say “total shift”…it’s a bit more refined than the debut, but very much the same band.

      • lennymccall

        Man I don’t know…
        Listened a couple times thru and it may just be too chaotic and different for me (not blackened enough). I’ll keep at it and see if it grows on me, but with so many mammoth releases coming and already out it’s hard to find time for something I’m not super in love with. Bummed.

  • Feytalist

    Been rocking out to that first track for a while now. I literally laughed out loud the first time I heard it. It’s a hoot.

    Mike Scheidt’s voice is polarising, yeah, but I like it. Cleans included. Vhöl is a pretty unique band at this point, and I can’t quite get behind all their songs, but damn it’s interesting to listen to at the very least.

  • long time lurker on your page first time poster, just wanted to say I love the last sentence of the review. I like to tell people all the time “buy this album unless you’re allergic to fun!” The “fun” factor is what gets me into certain bands and the two bands that I’ve recently been turned onto because of that fun factor are Satan (where have I been on them, wow) and Vhol.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Listening to the two tracks available on Bandcamp, the recording sounds quite warm. As a YOB fanboy, I like Scheidt’s cleans (I think they were used to great effect on Clearing the Path to Ascend). Now that you’ve mentioned Hammers of Misfortune, I think I’m going to go listen again to their great 17th Street release.

    • Dr_Fisting

      I’ve been binging HARD on Hammers since working on this review. 17th Street is excellent, and they have a new album coming soon as well.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Nice. Looking forward to that.

        I also just listened to Vhöl’s first release again, as I await the new album’s full set of tracks on Bandcamp. I think Dekker’s drumming really anchors that record. Most of the songs there have such a thunderous, driving sound I just can’t get enough of.

        • Dr_Fisting

          Yeah, he’s a monster. You should check out Ludicra’s “The Tenant” if you haven’t already, his performance on that record is insane.

        • Baax Brewing

          Yep, Dekker is a beast.

  • grooben

    I’m in the Scheidt camp on this one. I dig his versatility, something that can be sorely lacking in metal vocalists. It’s a polarizing voice though, no doubt.

  • Neb Bojer

    Where’s my imbedded youtube clip?

    • Dr_Fisting

      These guys are so kvlt that they have literally nothing from their new record on YouTube. Go figure.

      • basenjibrian

        Not only is this true, but the Power of the Dark Lord is so strong in their music that VHOL, and ONLY VHOL crash the iTunes store every time I try to look for the album!
        Oddest thing I have found on iTunes! :)

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Vhöl ïs qüite a fün bänd and ä premïer exämple öf a bänd I woüld havë nëver heärd of ïf I dïdn’t reäd thïs fäntästic littlë blög. Gläd to heär thïs isn’t ä söphömöre slümp.

  • You wot m8?

    I’m just gad that there are some goddamn spheres on this cover. Given the recent lack of spherical imagery, I was starting to worry.

    • Dr_Fisting

      I count at least 6, which should make up for the last week or so of sphere-less albums we’ve reviewed.

  • Luke_22

    Great review, this is an absolute monster and one of my favorites of the year. As much as I enjoyed the debut, Deeper than Sky blows it away. Heaps of fun and personally I love Scheidt’s vocals, though they are an acquired taste for sure.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Great review,
    “Stylistically, he’s a descendant of founding fathers like Iommi, Blackmore and Lifeson, while also taking cues from ’80s hardcore, the Voivod/Coroner school of weirdness, and even early black metal.”

    Goddamn that alone makes me want to pick this up.
    I never got round to the debut or Hammers of Misfortune. Looks like another expensive month coming up :)

    • André Snyde Lopes

      Anything that makes a reviewer namedrop Coroner is a good pick.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Absolutely!
        The thing I’ve always appreciated about Coroner (and Voivod for that matter) is that due to their idiosyncratic sound and style, they’re hard to use as a lazy reference point.
        If they’re being positively name dropped it’s usually a big clue for me that something a bit special is happening.

        Listening through the two samples on Bandcamp I can see why Dr Fisting has said this, great stuff!
        Looking forward to hearing the whole thing.

        • André Snyde Lopes

          My thoughts exactly! Both Coroner and Voivod are extremely unique, and so is Vhöl. The reference is very, very appropriate.

  • Baax Brewing

    A Vhol review bring’s out the lurkers (raises hand). The first album was some of the best gear this old hard music fan had heard in years, so unique and varied, heavy, fast and as yes, fun!

    I have this one playing right now and it’s all of the first album and more.
    You are so right about Cobbett, he is something else, I love the 70’s rock feel he injects into his solos, plus those riffs!

    Damn I love this band.

  • Shangsean

    I decided to buy this one. Bandcamp is weird. When I searched for Vhol or the album title, I got no results. When I searched in Google for “buy Vhol”, the Bandcamp page came up. Anyway, I’m liking it so far. Not sure I’d give it quite a 4 at this stage as I’m thinking the sound/style of the band is a little more interesting than the actual songwriting, but we’ll see. I’m quite surprised the vocals are seen as polarizing. I was expecting something very different from reading the review. I think they’re very good. I thought they were going to be a bit oddball or something.

    • Shangsean

      I’ve listened to this a lot over the past few days. Definitely a four or more. One of the most energetic albums I’ve heard in ages. It’s not just because it’s fast either, each individual performance is so energetic, so vigorous(not sure that’s the word I’m looking for, but so be it). Plus the mix is so clear. It actually feels a lot shorter than its run time.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    Cleaner production = Home Run!

  • Angel R. Suarez

    First time I heard Mike Scheidt’s vocals, I hated them.

    Now I own YOB’s entire discography and will be seeing them play in a couple of weeks.

    They get to you after a while.

  • Mr T

    This one keeps growing on me. Loved the first album as well.

  • Irineu Carvalho

    After almost a year listening to this album, I can forcefully state that this review erred by 1 full point in its numerical rating.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      100%