If your home country only has a whopping 172 bands documented on The Metal Archives, with roughly half of them split up or otherwise disbanded, there’s a decent chance that relatively few people have ever heard your particular take on metal before. Such is the case for Erdve, a fledgling four-piece emerging from the enigmatic Lithuanian underground. However, it being 2018 and the internet being what it is, there is also a decent chance that everyone has already heard and done the fuck right out of your particular take on metal before, regardless of how far underground you dwell. Presented with such a paradoxical plight whilst pondering potentially plucking Erdve‘s debut from the Promo Pit of Possibility – would Vaitojimas just be more of the same, or could this be something (gasp) unique? – I ultimately put my faith in the label, Season of Mist, and ran with it. SoM music is MoM music far more often than not, so fuck it, let’s see if this Erdve is anything to shout about.
For better or worse, we live in a time when a large, blackened chunk of death metal has been converted to fanatic acolytes of Deathspell Omega and Ulcerate, ushering in a discordant new age of frenetic, furious clones à la Meshuggah‘s unwitting birth of ye 000lde djent era. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – such is largely Season of Mist’s thing, after all, and I’ve already demonstrated my unwavering trvst in them by selecting this album in the first place – but an unforeseeable outbreak of irresponsible ape-ing has lead to excessive atonal atmospheric pollution, nonetheless. In the case of Vaitojimas, this same untrendy trend is being kept alive and well, preserved in sludge and given a revitalizing shot of hardcore vocals. Atonal chords and dissonant atmospheres which have become the basic building blocks of blackened –anything in 2018 are as much Erdve’s stock-in-trade as they are anyone else’s these days, but a keen grasp on songwriting and a youthful propensity for sonic exploration make this outing more of a story retold than a corpse reanimated.
The coolest thing that Erdve do with the standard sonic palette of today’s brvtality is that they opt to actually do something with it, playing with potential rather than merely mimicking the shit out of what’s already been done. The dark dichotomy displayed in tracks like “Apverktis” and “Atraja” reveals a significant post-metal element to the material, instilling it with a welcome sense of uniqueness while facilitating natural song progression. In a manner somewhat reminiscent of labelmates Zhrine, Erdve make frequent pilgrimages to postal lakes, baptizing their death metal demons in blackened calm before each beast is reborn in chaos anew. Where all six tracks maintain an otherwise constant state of intoxicating violence recalling a more brooding Ulcerate, such moments of relative relaxation not only punctuate the ensuing explosions, these pensive passages also provide an opportunity to catch ones fucking breath. Those familiar with the sonic scene I’m trying to paint know how stifling such pandemonian fare can be, and why it’s such a mark in Erdve’s favor that they have manage to wield such wild weaponry with finesse and grace on their first outing.
However, an old dog doing its tricks a little differently can only do so much to stave off déjà vu, and at its core Vaitojimas is very much somewhere that many metal heads have already traveled to. The postal element is cool, for sure, but I’m overstating it by this point, and it’s not like fans of Jupiterian, Seedna or Deathspell Omega haven’t heard this stuff before. “Isnara” might just as easily have been done by any of those bands, putting the style’s templates for dissonant violence and discomforting moments of stillness to work and crafting something darkly familiar, enjoyable if not exactly engulfed in originality. Vaitojimas clings to this descriptor for the entirety of its onslaught, 37 minutes of blackened rehash draped in post-metal, sprinkled with vicious hardcore shouts and paced out just appropriately enough to feel alive.
While tracks like “Isnara” and “Atraja” possess a certain strength which might qualify them as standout songs, Vaitojimas itself is largely nondescript, a congenial walk through familiar territory as post metal clouds soak the charred ground in relatively inconsequential sludge. We’ve been here before, and I’m certain we’ll be back again before too long. Those desiring envelope-abusing innovation may wish to look elsewhere, but those loyal to the Ulcerate Omega movement that is Season of Mist’s bread and butter will find themselves right at home.