In my younger years, extreme metal baffled me. My untrained ears were often unable to follow the complex riffs and fast tempos, making it impossible to assess music quality. To me, it was all simply fast, scary, and incomprehensible. I remember scouring metal forums for hours to learn which albums were the “classics,” only to listen to them and question why they were considered as such. If this is a “good” extreme metal album, I would wonder, what does a “bad” one sound like? In this regard, I almost wish The Ventriloquist had existed back then. Because it would have provided the perfect answer to that question.
This wasn’t always the case for Methedras. 2014’s System Subversion was a decent take on modern death-thrash, combining clean choruses and hints of groove into an entertaining (if overlong) package. It was also notable for being the first album I reviewed for this website. Thus, when I saw this Italian quartet had returned with fifth full-length The Ventriloquist, both nostalgia and curiosity conspired to make me take the plunge. If only I’d known how fetid those waters would be.
Stylistically, this album is largely the same as its predecessor. These ten tracks are a gathering of death, thrash, and groove metal, wrapped into an easily digestible and modern package. The difference is that this time, it’s a gathering where none of them actually want to be there. Initially, the swift and catchy riffs of opener “A Deal with the Devil” make it seem like Ventriloquist will be a enjoyable little romp through some well-tread grounds. If, in some alternate universe, Pantera had reunited and released a mediocre comeback album in 2006, “Deal” would be the promising first single that made the rest of the album that much more disappointing. Sadly, that’s about the best thing I have to say about any song here.
Along with “Deal,” three other tracks—“Dead Silence,” “Into the Maze,” and closer “Watch Me Fall”—feature choruses of implied melody and bigger-sounding chords. They sound similar and aren’t particularly catchy, but at least they provide something to get one’s attention. By contrast, the remaining six tracks plow forward on vaguely thrashy and groovy riffs that initially sound decent, but soon prove nowhere near strong enough to hold up the songs they’re in. It’s as if Methedras wrote all the filler riffs first and then forgot to write any of the good ones. Likewise, the drums offer virtually no tempo changes that would make something (ANYTHING!!) stand out, while the vocalist belts out a gruff shout that has about much enthusiasm as a DMV employee working unpaid overtime. If you’d ever wondered what Randy Blythe would sound like if he totally and utterly stopped giving a shit, this is just like that, only somehow even worse.
I can’t stress enough how utterly uninspired this album is. I would love to tell you exactly why I don’t like songs like “Blind,” “Fire Within,” or “Sleepwalking,” but there’s literally nothing to say other than the riffs are bland and absolutely nothing about them stands out. At least the guitar solos are pretty good, with a clear sound and a soaring feel. Likewise, the modern and somewhat loud production suits the style well enough, while the Southern-style riffs of “Sham Knockout” do manage to set the song apart. But other than that, this album feels like a spit in the face of creativity.
In a way, it’s incredible. On the surface, The Ventriloquist does nothing wrong. There are no failed experiments, horrid performances, or bad production decisions. It’s simply utterly bereft of any and all inspiration. By its nature metal requires a certain level of energy and giving-of-shits to make. In that regard, kudos to Methedras, because they managed to write a 40-minute album that sounds like they completely and utterly did not give a fuck about. I guess if you’re a massive DevilDriver or Lamb of God fan, some songs might appeal to you. For everyone else, please keep living your life and pretend The Ventriloquist never existed.