I’ve only briefly mentioned my family’s connection to the garbage industry before, but it has certainly been a major part of my life. I worked for the family biz during high school washing and delivering carts, during college repairing dumpsters in the welding bay, and after college I became a full-fledged driver and used my B.S. in Math to count how many cans I dumped. Garbage gave me my first dad joke: “How’s the garbage business?” people would ask, and the only proper response is, “It’s always picking up!” Humanity’s waste has literally put food on my table for much of my life, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. So, like Algebra a few weeks back, I feel a connection to San Francisco’s Vastum, whose name is Latin for “waste.” I found the band’s 2015 release Hole Below to be a bludgeoning monster of a record, but can 2019’s Orificial Purge live up to that standard?
Unfortunately, no. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Hole Below used some atmospheric elements and varied tempos to craft a terrifying experience that never once let up, and while Vastum 2019 incorporates bits and pieces of those elements, Orificial Purge settles mostly into mid-paced death metal territory. Combine the lumbering sections of Incantation mixed with Bolt Thrower heft, and you can imagine what 90% of this record sounds like. While it may not be as compelling as its predecessor, it still sounds like a good time overall. Daniel Butler (Acephalix) and guitarist Leila Adbul-Rauf (Hammers of Misfortune) share vocal duties, with Butler’s deep roars carrying much of the load while Adbul-Rauf provides complementary demented shrieks. The two-pronged attack is a really important aspect of the Vastum sound as it creates a constant contrast despite the musical tempo remaining fairly homogenous.
Things start a bit slow on Orificial Purge, with the opening combo of “Dispossessed in Rapture (First Wound)” and “I on the Knife (Second Wound).” Both are good songs with good riffs and some decent atmosphere, but they run a little long for the amount of ideas they possess. Things really kick into gear though with the arrival of “Abscess Inside Us,” its driving palm-muted down-picked rhythm setting the stage while Butler and Abdul-Rauf trade dueling blasphemies before the song launches into a monstrous rolling chug. Towards the end, it blasts into a riff and solo that would fit on Reign in Blood, and all this diversity of tempo and mood makes it the highlight of the record in my book. “Orificial Purge” starts with a creepy intro with arpeggiated clean guitar chords then vomits forth one of the most satisfying Bolt Throwery riffs of the year — and I’ve heard a lot of them in 2019. Six-and-a-half minute closer “His Sapphic Longing,” while good, overstays its welcome a bit as it tries to incorporate more of the atmosphere that worked so well on Hole Below.
The production is loud and doesn’t have a lot of room for dynamics, but who needs dynamics when you’re being run over by an entire armored division of chugging riffs? Drummer Chad Gailey deserves a mention as his rhythms and fills do a lot to spice things up while Abdul-Rauf and fellow guitarist Shelby Lermo are riffing away, the closing moments of embedded track “Reveries in Autophagia” being a great example. Prune a few minutes of the runtime here and throw in a few more blistering death metal passages, and I’d probably be wrapping up a review of a very good or great record like Hole Below right now. Everything here is good, but the mid-album trio of “Abscess Inside Us,” “Orificial Purge,” and “Reveries in Autophagia” are all great.
Well, I wouldn’t call this version of Vastum essential, but if Orificial Purge is just plain, good old death metal fun upon close listening, it’s also excellent doing other stuff death metal. I’ve tested it and found it to be fabulous for BBQ repair work, lawn mowing, and heavy deadlifts. Fans of mid-paced death metal should find a lot — maybe a tad too much — to love here. As long as Vastum keeps bringing smelly offerings to the curb, I’ll be sure to pick them up.