Vaelmyst – Secrypts of the Egochasm Review

Melodic death metal is a genre I want to like more than I actually do. Describe it to me and, on paper, I should love it. Not a death metal fan but desperately wanting to be so that I can hang out with cool kids Kronos and Ferrous Beuller, dialling up the melodic quotient should be just the ticket. While there are, of course, bands like Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium, that I love, I find that melodic death metal is a genre plagued by mediocrity (in which I include DT‘s last) and such has also been my experience of reviewing it here. For every Nyktophobia or Eternal Storm (neither of which I actually reviewed), there’s three or four Withering Surfaces lurking. Maybe the riffs feel tame, sometimes the drums are lame or the vocals just don’t have that edge … whatever it is, disappointment abounds. Can L.A. trio Vaelmyst break that run for me, with their self-released debut album, the appallingly-named Secrypts of the Egochasm?1

The full-length follow up to the brvtal but fairly straightforward melodeath of 2018 EP, Earthly Wounds (which featured a guest performance by Thenighttimeproject‘s Fredrik Norrman, formerly of Katatonia and Trees of Eternity, among others), Secrypts is an altogether more nuanced affair, building on that groundwork. Perhaps it was while plumbing the depths of the Egochasm that Vaelmyst discovered the blackened death, heavy and speed metal influences, as well as progressive song structures, that they play with across this record. Where Earthly Wounds was a combination of The Haunted and In Flames (when they were still good), Secrypts is a layered beast. Jonathan V’s vocals are satisfyingly harsh roars, with just enough variation in them. Ronny Lee Marks handles both guitars and bass with more than a little skill (he also mixed the album), and Wyatt Bentley’s pummelling work behind the kit is compelling, driving the Vaelmyst show forward.

Whether it’s the hulking mid-paced melodeath of “The Ghost of Ire,” the rampaging beast of “Spineless Throne,” spitting searing leads in all directions, or the cascading, galloping groove of “Ghoulish Delight” (also featuring a killer solo from Tyler Sturgill of Xoth), Vaelmyst make it look easy. Like the great black metal of Miasmata that I reviewed earlier this year, the key to Secrypts‘ success is the willingness (and ability) to blend traditional heavy metal and thrash influences and riffing into the heavier work they’re laying down on the likes of the punishing “Envenom the Sea,” which has definite Ride the Lightning vibes. Even the restrained atmospherics of the title track, which Vaelmyst gradually build with keening guitars and howling wind, leads seamlessly into the breathless fury of album closer “The Coin of the Realm,” which sees Bentley’s double bass work stepping up to Meshuggah levels of intensity.

From the immediacy of the riff that opens the album on “Esprit de Corps” through the structure and overall pacing of the record’s crisp 40-minute runtime, Vaelmyst‘s debut is very solid and kept me coming back for more. There are a few choices that I perhaps wouldn’t have made and I’m not just talking about the title. The spoken word opening to “Ghoulish Delight,” for example, feels, as nearly every spoken word passage everywhere2, like a distracting waste of time. Similarly, the title track feels like it’s building toward something epic only to transition into “The Coin of the Realm,” which it does well but still feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. But these are minor gripes and I don’t want to overstate them. Mastered by Arthur Rizk, whose extensive credits include Power Trip, Sumerlands and Primitive ManSecrypts sounds great. Expansive and with a great guitar tone, even delicate moments – like the key arrangement that surfaces toward to the back end of “The Coin of the Realm” – are handled well and feel balanced.

Without being a stone cold classic, Vaelmyst‘s debut is a really strong slab of melo-death. The band’s willingness to look beyond the traditional confines of the genre and draw on other influences gives Secrypts an refreshing edge that I enjoyed a lot, and meant that on each listen there was something new to discover. Switching between frenzied riffing and mid-paced groove, building in traditional solos and leads to the melo-death template, Vaelmyst have shown that they know how to write and structure an album, and that there should be a huge amount to come from them in future. Oh, and they clearly deserve a label deal, so here’s hoping for that.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: vaelmyst.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/vaelmyst
Releases Worldwide: August 13th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Also … *gasp* … do I detect boobs on the cover? BEWBS?!
  2. Discuss.
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