Vore, for the blissfully unaware amongst us, is one of the stranger fetishes the internet has given a home. It is the fetish for being consumed. Yes, like in Bloodbath’s “Eaten.” In their infinite wisdom, the internet has even made sub-categories to such a specific fetish, namely soft vore (being swallowed whole) and hard vore (to see your body ripped and torn). Now, I don’t know why Birmingham’s Opium Lord decided to name their sophomore album after this infamous fetish. Their nasty, noisy sludge is about as arousing as battlefield amputations.1 What they have in common with their album title, however, is an atmosphere of claustrophobia and the grinding of teeth as it prepares to devour you. But does Vore chew you up and spit you out or is it biting off more than it can chew?
On the first few spins, the former certainly appears true. Opium Lord have a harsh, grating style that oozes malice. The riffing style is pure sludge, but nary every other element at play further crushes the listener into quivering jelly. The guitars dabble in shrieking, atonal reverberation and piercing bouts of feedback. The vocals utilize the barking screams of a lunatic and come straight out of the noisecore stables. Drums fire in dry cracks, and the bass thrums and throbs in earth-shaking waves. The tracks are structurally simple and generally focus on but one or two riffs, filling in the gaps with deep layers of unsettling melodic leads and those savage rasps, leaving the focus on the textural.
As the number of spins increased, however, my initial enthusiasm for the record began to decrease. It became quickly apparent just how little of Vore really sticks after it’s done playing. I persistently had trouble remembering any particular riffs or melodies after 10 minutes, and the sense of oppression seemed to evaporate within seconds after it ended. At first I assumed it to be my ADD and simply not paying enough attention, but nearing a dozen playthroughs the problem still remained. I could only draw one conclusion: Vore is simply not very memorable. The layers of crushing density and pervasive distress are simply too much to leave much room for any of the riffs, which aren’t particularly noteworthy in and of themselves, to hit the mark and stick in the brain.
The production underlines this issue, too. Taken at surface value, it’s a fine job for this sort of sound; the layers of guitars are thick and murky in a good way, the drums heavy, and the bass deliciously overtuned like a massive truck come to life. The vocals have their proper place in the middle and the whole treads between dynamic enough for a bit of clarity and dense enough to boost the claustrophobia even further. But there is too much going on, heaviness in different methods from all directions, and the mix can’t quite seem to compensate. The result is an album that succeeds in its ambitions to unpack pounding darkness, grime and filth, but falls short when it comes to staying with you for very long, making it an enjoyable spin when it’s on, but forgotten easily when it isn’t.
I surmise Vore to be one of those albums that either hits you hard or leaves you indifferent. If dense and oppressive textures get you going, you’ll find plenty to love here. The combination of the heavy crash of the drums, the maddening whine and shriek of the leads, the thick and thrumming bass, and the excellent vocals that scrape the inside of your skull all take care of that. The dense layering puts you in a stranglehold that lasts the length of the record without breaking sweat. But that same density and focus on texturing pushes the riffs and hooks too far back, to the point where memorability begins to suffer and much of the album becomes a bit of a blur. I still recommend checking out Vore if you think you fall in the former category, but I’m holding out hope the next can accompany the pleasant unpleasantness with something that latches onto the brainstem.