Vampire – Rex Review

When we last heard from Swedish vampires, err… Vampire, they impressed me in 2017 with their Castlevania II/80’s inspired With Primeval Force, and although it didn’t crack my Top Ten(ish) that year, it still worms its way into my listening sessions on a continual basis around these parts. I was beginning to worry that the merry (undead) quintet would lay dormant,1 so imagine my surprise when the higher-ups threw Rex at my lap and told me to get on that shit, pronto. After coming down from the initial shock, I dove into Rex,2 and after repeated listens, it’s a slight step back, but not without some noticeable growth.

After a short and sweet instrumental in “Prelusion,” the title track leaps into the fray, with storms a-brewin’ and horses a-whinnying, and once again Vampire straddle that sweet line between “throwback Mercyful Fate homage” and “ass-kicking upstarts” with no problem. Black String and Sepulchral Condor throw riff after sweet riff, guaranteeing viciously banged heads and sore necks while Abysmal Condor tosses enough drum fills and variety in his percussive onslaught to keep things interesting throughout the song’s three minutes and some change. Elsewhere, Hand of Doom shrieks and howls, but keeps things to a shrill shout, wisely playing up to his strengths and enhancing Rex‘s retro-yet-modern feel.

And for several songs thereafter, Rex doesn’t let much off of the gas, which displays Rex‘s double-edged sword. When it’s playing, Rex is an enjoyable and brief (less than 39 minutes) album that will get the blood pumping (and pouring). When it comes time to analyze its highlights, that’s where things get a bit viscous. While With Primeval Force had a few notable standouts, Rex has so much bleed-through and similarities between songs that naming a standout track proved to be difficult. The quality as a whole is high, mind you, but with the exceptions of the all-too-brief acoustic finale that plays out closer “Melek-Taus” and the slower, more deliberate march of “Anima,” the majority of Rex gallops at nearly the same tempo and the same ferocity. Again, there are absolutely no stinkers on Rex, but there’s no “Initiation Rite” or “Midnight Trial” either.

The production is Rex‘s other double-edged sword, as once again the guitars maintain that warm, fuzzy, almost crackling warmth while, once again, Command’s bass is muffled and flat. Abysmal Condor’s drums do sound better this go-’round, with the bass drum getting a slightly harder punch, and I personally love Hand of Doom’s cavernous reverb. But even with these complaints, I need to stress Rex maintains a youthful urgency and hunger that’s lacking in the majority of retro bands these days, and again, Vampire‘s growth as songwriters and musicians can’t be denied.

Know what else can’t be denied? My overall enjoyment of Rex, and the knowledge that I’ll probably be spinning this about as much as its predecessor down the line. Much like fellow countrymates (and fellow Century Media labelmates) TribulationVampire are doing the retro-yet-new thing absolutely right, but here’s hoping that they see just as much respect and fame as their gothic counterparts. With Rex, they’ve sure as shit earned it, and it would be a damn shame if you don’t give it a look yourself.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 19th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Translated: I don’t do Facebook anymore, and it’s a strong possibility that news of a new album made the rounds there… but fuck Facebook so goddamn hard!
  2. Not like that.
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