If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself pondering the great questions of the universe. For instance, like me you’ve probably wondered what would happen if Lamb of God and Kataklysm made sweet love while Alestorm sat in the corner reading them a bedtime story. Unlike most of the big questions plaguing humanity, we no longer have to speculate on this one. Polish band Vane love drama on the high seas, and on their debut album Black Vengeance, they throw their three-pointed hat into the hotly contested ring of pirate metal. Is this going to be worth the pay-per-view fee?
The promo materials have the band’s name in all caps which immediately led me to hope that it was an acronym hiding a secret treasure. After listening to this for a week, Vane undoubtedly stands for “Vehemently Aggro Nautical Entertainment.” They play a groove-heavy version of melodic death metal that treads dangerously close to metalcore at times. Black Vengeance is apparently a concept album about pirates involving Blackbeard and betrayal, but without seeing lyrics it’s hard to tell what’s going on. As most of the songs are aggressively groovy, the music itself does little to tell the story. That’s not to say it isn’t good. I’m a sucker for well done groove, and on this front the band doesn’t disappoint. Most of the album is filled with tasty riffs and crushing drums. Fifty second long “Randy Dandy – O” is one of the few hints that the band is going for an epic atmosphere and it’s a missed opportunity. It could have been used as the foundation for a moody track to give the concept some emotional depth. Instead, it serves as a brief respite from the tough guy music.
Speaking of tough guys, let’s focus on Marcin Parandyk’s vocals. His performance is the make or break factor on Black Vengeance. At his best, he does a convincing Randy Blythe impersonation that works really well for the music. If he spent most of his time in this realm, I’d bump the score up by 0.5. Unfortunately, he does a lot of growled singing à la Robb Flynn and it simply sounds bad. Even more unfortunately, he does a lot of creepy, throaty spoken passages that are hair-raising in the worst way. The album begins with this voice on opener “Born Again,” setting the expectation bar low from word one. Most unfortunately, Parandyk dabbles with some growled rapping on “Death’s Season” that had me saying “Gosh, I hope he doesn’t do that again.” And thank gosh he doesn’t, but it’s enough to ruin the song which happens to be one of the album’s strongest.
The idea of ruining highlights is a theme on Black Vengeance. “Edge of the Cutlass” is an early standout that has Vane raging in Kataklysm-mode before a groove breakdown that would fit on Ashes of the Wake takes over. However, that creepy spoken word voice keeps popping up, destroying the momentum the music works hard to create. My favorite song on the album is “Spilling Guts.” It’s got fantastic riffs and is the only track to slow things down to a brooding crawl. A female guest vocalist is brought in and used to great effect, and a quick dueling guitar solo sets the stage for an excellent growling crescendo. Not even the sub-par Flynn singing ruins this song. What does ruin it though is the addition of Manowar-style sexual moans. The song ends with the sounds of uninterested passion and totally destroys the excellence that came before it. I don’t know about you, but when I fake an orgasm, I try to do it with some fucking conviction.
As a wannabe tough guy that enjoys tough guy music, I consider myself the target market for Vane’s product1. It actually had a chance to connect with me, but Black Vengeance falls well short of being a shot across the bow of the pirate metal genre. Perhaps Vane should ask themselves if their chosen style will ever really work with their chosen concept. Regardless of the answer, I urge you to steer your cash toward more favorable ports.