vrtra - my bones hold a stillnessThere’s something about Vrtra that screams ‘the trve vndergrovnd.’ Maybe it’s the wholly capitalized stylization. Maybe it’s the ambiguous ‘V.’ Maybe it’s the dark artwork with wispy flecks of gray. Maybe it’s their sub-400 followers on Facebook. Maybe it’s that they play one of the least common fusions of metal genres. It’s definitely not their hometown(s) however, as they partly hail from the Bay Area, a home rooted in metal history. Yet thrash they reject: instead, My Bones Hold a Stillness is their debut attempt at encapsulating the towering stature of doom with blackened ferocity. It’s a very decent effort and one which does at least leave a mark.

My Bones… is best described as a heaving beast. It’s unbalanced, unsubtle yet overwhelming and will demand your attention. Though largely dividing its time between huge doom riffs and passages of blackened intensity, these are combined in a very compelling manner throughout. It’s particularly good on “The Cold Suffocating Dark Goes on Forever” which feels like doom but is executed with tremolo-picked guitars and the fusion of the two is quite unique. While a couple of riffs are more easily digestible and will get your head nodding, the three tracks here refuse to retreat to a regular tempo or central melody. The songs shift and refresh themselves as such and while they’re pummeling and disorientating, they’re never offensive or tough to endure. This synthesis of heaviness and accessibility is sure to appeal to some.

Unicorn sassy

Two of the typical explanations I give to my disturbed acquaintances as to why I enjoy extreme metal and harsh vocals is the sense of power invoked and that said vocals are to be treated as a rhythmic or percussive instrument. This is true to the limited extent that it first broke me into the heavier shit. But as metal became more everyday this feeling has faded, to be replaced by a deeper understanding of and differentiation between diverse growls, shrieks or shouts. It’s a credit, then, that My Bones… truly invokes that sense of power. The lurching rhythms and guttural growls of the title track recall the Rancor pit scene from Star Wars VI – I am the Rancor as it crushes and consumes Jabba’s pig-guard-thing. It’s a great sensation and one I didn’t realize I missed until Vrtra landed in my tray.

The reason for the less enthusiastic rating is primarily that I question how much I will return to My Bones…. It is at least competent and ranges as far as impressive but doesn’t consistently engage me sufficiently. This may be due to the long track-lengths but most significantly it doesn’t demand repeat plays when faced with the decision of the next album to which I’ll listen. I enjoy it plenty during its run but will it endure in my rotation until the end of the year? I’m not so sure. Compounding this is the sincere dearth of dynamics in the master. While the thick and muddy mix is fitting, there is no excuse for DR 4 and My Bones… simply sounds worse as a result.

Vrtra will find a place in the library of doom aficionados and are certainly worth a listen. They may stick with others more but for me this record is just a short (30 minutes!) and satisfying-in-the-short-term release which unfortunately does not stack up to the staying power of the myriad great doom released this year. But don’t merely write them off as their power and impact is considerable.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Websites: facebook.com/vrtra | vrtra.bandcamp.com
Releases worldwide: September 2nd, 2016

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  • GardensTale

    I think it’s a conundrum you face a lot as a reviewer especially. Albums that are competent and not wholly unoriginal or boring but just don’t really do more for you than that. You find them all the time as a regular listener, but you just forget those albums, you don’t need to fill 4-5 paragraphs with them. Admirable review!

    • Name’s Dalton

      I will listen to this EP every day. It’s incredible.

  • hallowed

    I think this is a really solid piece of metal, judging by the two tracks on their Bandcamp. I also admit being a sucker for this specific kind of metal, so I could be biased. A certain buy for me.

    • Reese Burns

      Yeah, I’m guessing I might get a bit more mileage out of it than this

  • It’s a blackened Dark Buddha Rising. What’s not to like?

    • Bas

      o yeah :-)

  • Reese Burns

    I like the cover, logo covers are hit and miss with me, but this one looks neat

  • Bas

    Black metal + doom = Ggu:ll
    Also Faal is like that, but Ggu:ll has the cult factor as Farida from the Devils Blood joins in one of the songs. Upcoming Dutch doom days has several bands this year combining black and doom.. Is it a the next trend?

    • Reese Burns

      I really like the whole blackened doom thing these guys have going on, you got any other bands like this you could recommend?

      • Bas

        I am not an expert at all. But at the DDD there will be Locus Amoenus, which is the most similar to Vrtra. For the rest the two mentioned above, but also Riti Occulti from Italy (for the rest its traditional doom and doom death). You can check out stuff from Van Records, they have several (death and) black metal bands with doom influences.

        • Reese Burns

          Thanks a ton, I’ve got some listening to do!

        • basenjibrian

          Another plug for Riti Occulti

          • Bas

            Another? I haven’t seen anyone mention them before..

          • basenjibrian

            I was just agreeing with your comment. That’s all.

      • Name’s Dalton

        Generation of Vipers

        • Reese Burns

          Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Blueberry Balls

    Sheet, now how the hell am I supposed to unicorn that unicorn?

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      How about a tiny stripper unicorn using the big Unicorn’s horn as a pole?

      • Reese Burns

        A little specific there, dontcha think? ;)

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Good ol’ Blueberry Balls needed some help there so…

      • [not a Dr]

        You don’t “get” Blueberry Ball’s art: it needs to be the same unicorn picture as usual, but placed either in obvious or subversive ways. If you want fancy technical unicorning, call Bart. Blueberry Balls only uses the angry pink unicorn.

    • [not a Dr]

      Zoom-in that sparkle in its eye. Let’s see what got it all starry-eyed. Or perhaps it got a tongue-tatoo.
      Or it’s the real monoceros constellation. Sky’s the limit.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    So, Vrtra is trying to outdo Mgla in two categories: band name with the lowest vowel-to-consonant ratio AND band name you have no idea how to pronounce.

    • Bart the Repairman

      „Mgła” is great name. Short, very black-metallish (it means „mist” in polish), and you can feel some sort of movement in the word itself. It sounds like „mgwah”, with „g” like in „Guerra”, not in „George”.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I wouldn’t know how to pronounce “mgwah” either… I usually call them “Mogla”

        • basenjibrian

          ROFLOL! Mogla sounds like a Japanese movie monster, not a Polish black metal “horde”
          (I am a big fan of Mgla. For some reason, I keep coming back to their discography again and again. It’s simple music, but mesmerizing).

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            That’s Mothra! HAHAHAHA
            Mgla´s music is amazing, awesome riffs and awesome melodies…

          • Mothra would make a decent band name. Make it Mvthra for extra kvltness.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Möthra or Møthra dependending on the style… Mvthra looks too close to Mythra, which already exists.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I stopped giving explanations to my acquaintances as to why I enjoy extreme metal and harsh vocals… If they need an explanation they just wouldn’t understand it anyway.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    This sounds thick and nasty which is exactly what I was hoping for. I’ll give the full thing a listen. That logo is pretty dope, too.

  • Brother Ben

    It’s called a Gamorrean you galactically politically incorrect heathen!