A quick note to begin: Vircolac‘s Codex Perfida has been released on cassette tape. No joke. Straight-faced. And for the moment, it’s the only available physical format. Check this for why the stench of ass is now is my nostrils.
Fortunately, that malodorous stink also emanates intentionally from this demo, in the form of begrimed, dingy death metal. Codex Perfida is the début from Ireland’s Vircolac, and it’s suitably grinding and nasty enough to spark the most peace-loving hippy into a murderous rampage. Interested?
After a typically atmospheric intro, replete with haunting piano keys, faux choir and sparse drums, “Confessio” jumps straight in and beats you with a shitty stick. The raw guitar tone and fuzzy, warm percussion harks back to proto-death such as Possessed and Death, but further down-tuned and even more filthy. Laoghaire’s gutteral, gargled vocals sound as if they were dragged through mud in the mastering process, and I mean that as a compliment. The song uses an interesting structure too, pummelling throughout the first four minutes, before breaking down into an almost sludgey second half. It’s darkly atmospheric and slowly grinds to a turgid halt. If you want a demonstration of everything Vircolac offers in one package, here it is.
Despite its influences, derivative it isn’t, drawing on sludge metal with the dirgy, distorted chords in mid-paced sections, as well as the grinding faster material. One way in which Codex Perfida commendably distinguishes itself from the pack is in its bass. While wisely preferring a warm and authentic, old school production job, the bass doesn’t sound tinny as older bands can – it has decent heft without veering into an overly doctored tone. This goes for the bass guitar as well as on the drums, which are perfect in the mix. The cymbals sound wonderfully genuine and generally, the percussion is afforded space alongside the guitars. You’ll be air drumming the brilliant mid-section of “Effigy” with glee, while croaking “Effigies… burning!” along with Laoghaire, almost immediately.
Despite these many positives, Codex Perfida is one of those releases where the overall quality is not quite equal to the sum of its parts. There are individually excellent sections: a cool riff (the opening of “Confessio”), a righteous drum fill (the aforementioned mid-section of “Effigy”) and a compelling harmony (the gradual layering at the start of “The Worm Turns”). But these aren’t able to affect my overall opinion of “good, but not great.” It’s just not quite all there for a reason I can’t quite articulate, because there is a lot to like.
Nonetheless, this is a fun, stinky début from a group of guys who clearly know how to rock. It doesn’t overstay its welcome at a trim 24 minutes, and there are glimpses of greatness. It doesn’t hurt that the aforementioned production hits a DR of 11, explaining the high audio quality. Fans of traditional, the-way-Satan-intended death will find plenty to enjoy here [And be sure to request your bonus laser disc when you order your cassette. — Steel Druhm].