It took me a long time to come around to the whole “post-metal” thing. Though I was a fan of The Melvins and the early Helmet material, both of whom helped pave the way for the genre, I wasn’t there at the grand opening of Neurosis or Isis, and I didn’t join the Cult of Luna until very late in their culthoodiness. It was actually Ghost Brigade that brought me on board, and I’ve enjoyed the style since. V is a project of Daniel Liljekvist (In Mourning, ex-Katatonia) and on their Pathogenisis debut they’re peddling a take on post-metal that clings close to the early days of the style, while also incorporating a good dose of doom. The hardcore element that’s slowly becoming watered down in much modern post-metal is quite prominent here, making V‘s sound muscular, aggressive and confrontation. Most importantly of all, it’s chocked full of spleen softening riffs. But can you dance to it?
No, and though “Souls of the Nearly Departed” doesn’t offer anything you haven’t heard before, it does bring the noise and sludgy power convincingly enough to make you feel like you have a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado parked on your chest. The riffs are ginormous and provide the classic post-metal pile-driver sensation, and the vocals blend hardcore shouts and vaguely deathy croaks effectively while traversing all the expected peaks and valleys, with quieter trilling offsetting the mega-ton doom riff assaults. The band is clearly talented and acquits themselves well enough to keep things interesting and even gripping at points.
“At the End of Your Time” injects a bit more stoner rock swagger at times, but the dark, brooding atmosphere remains the same, with a strong Ghost Brigade vibe creeping into the stripped-down, mournful guitar-work and vocal choices. The title track is extra doomy and quite oppressive, though a faint Mastodon vibe is perceivable in the right lighting. Album highlight “Suspend Animation” benefits from a slightly more laid back style with a bit of Kyuss playfulness, but what really puts the song over is the sudden turn toward Type O Negative glum-rock and melodic mirth at the mid-way point. Coming as it does after so much dour, bleak music, this little ray of sunshine pops like red on a sea of white.
To avoid a name-dropping exposition, you can be assured all the big names in post-metal are represented in the band’s sound to some extent over the album’s runtime, though nothing feels like a rip off of anyone’s style. There’s no filler or dud cuts, though the nine-minute closer “The Order” could have been trimmed by a minute or so without damaging the flow. With almost no clean singing, the tone is dark and heavy, but the writing keeps things from ever getting dull. The mix is quite good and surprisingly deep, with a lot of sonic space between the earth-shaking riffs and the drums.
Jonas Gryth and Andreas Baier (Oak) run the show with their concussive riffage and mopey downtuned leads. This is a very guitar-driven opus and while they don’t take their music in any new directions, they deliver everything a post-metal aficionado could want. Baier does a good job vocally as well, using a hoarse hardcore bellow along with a sorta-kinda death roar. He sounds appropriately anguished and pissed and that’s what keeps us entertained. Also noteworthy is Daniel Liljekvist’s performance. He puts on a classy clinic on post-metal drumming, sounding like the cagey vet he is and anchoring the sonic tableau firmly to the earth.
Pathogenisis is a solid, engaging album and as a debut, it shows a lot of promise. At the same time, it doesn’t add anything new to the genre or offer any real surprises to the listener, and this kept occurring to me whenever I spun it. It’s good, workmanlike post-metal with enough grit and grime to please everyone, and that would be fine in and of itself. However, it always feels like V is right on the cusp of delivering something more. I want to hear whatever that is so I’ll be watching and waiting. Having missed the genre’s formative days, I don’t want to miss anything else.