Via Vengeance – Diestractions from the Truth Review

In the tight-knit world that is the Arizona metal scene, everyone knows Shane Ocell. The man appears to never sleep as he maintains a full-time job and life while appearing at many late-night shows—somehow simultaneously. He can’t pass a patron without a hug and chat; like the host of a large Christmas party or the groom making rounds. And no show is complete without him, as stirs of “fuck yeah, Shane’s here!” ripple through the crowd at the first sighting of the man. He’s a happy dude that makes everyone around him happy. Case in point: at a Neurosis show in Phoenix, I became so enamored with opening act Amenra1 that nothing existed around me but dark, depressive death. Then I felt the nudge and looked over at the smiling face of Mr. Ocell. One second, I wanted to die. The next, I wanted to give the little guy a noogie. But how can a guy as happy as Shane write music as dark and heavy as that of Via Vengeance? I haven’t a clue, but that’s what he does.

If you recall from my review of 2016’s Harsh Conditions, Via Vengeance ain’t so much a band as a man. While Ocell plays drums for Arizona sludge masters, Sorxe,2 Via Vengeance is his baby. His place to tinker and experiment, pushing himself as a drummer, guitarist, and vocalist into uncharted territories of sludge and doom. If you also recall from my previous review, Ocell records all his drums, guitars, and vocals at the same motherfucking time. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. But he does it, like a heavy metal Bert.3 And he’s back to prove he can do it again with this year’s superb Diestractions from the Truth.

And “Beneath the Root” gets things started. Using Via Vengeance’s slow-moving, grooving sludge, Ocell’s spit, fire, and gruff molds this piece into a classic VV way to start the album. “Curse” and “Haunt” join the opener as being the catchiest and most fun. The former for its slick, harmonic-filled licks and perfectly matched vocal arrangements that make it one pissed-off beauty. “Haunt” picks up where the feedback-filled “Curse” left off. It has a repetitive nature and simple lyrics that make it get stuck in your head for days. Not to mention the killer transition that feels like the groovier side of Down. But, of all the fun, catchy tunes on the disc, almost-closer “Dying Trying to Live” is my favorite. After an intro as cold as ice, this ditty picks up the pace, jumping around like a punk rocker trying to escape quicksand. It’s a rather uplifting piece for VV but that’s no way for an album to end.

While “Dying Trying to Live” has brightness and a pleasing conclusion, the follow-up track, “Moments,” is cold and thoughtless. Using haunting clean guitars and hopeless whispers, this track closes the album and leaves you feeling uneasy and without resolution. The short, mid-album “Calm” does the same thing. Only a minute in length, it has all the time in the world to calm your soul and crush the hope in your heart. A heart that is further trampled with follow-up instrumental4 “Evil Under the Sea.” Combining Toolisms and Pelican with VV sludge, this piece shifts and writhes like the lone offspring of a creature left to brood in the darkness. It, like “Dying Trying to Live,” sounds like nothing I’ve heard from Via Vengeance before.

What I’ve heard from the dark mind of Ocell are songs like “Sin,” “Agony,” and “Oak II.” The first two are back-to-back, doom plodders. The latter being the slowest moving of them all. It has an awesome combination of clean and distorted guitars that disrupts your early-hour sleep with the drop of the dumpster by your friendly-neighborhood trash man. “Sin” is also an explosion of heavy, distorted riffage that starts slow and increases speed. It builds and builds, blasting its way through not one, but two badass riff changes. But “Oak II” is the best of the three. If anything else, for the kickass drum solo at the beginning. Then it combines sludgy groove with Sunn O))) drone to support Ocell’s body-dragging, deep-throated gutturals and his sinister spoken passages.

In the end, Diestractions from the Truth is the perfect partner to predecessor Harsh Conditions. While 2016’s fifty-five-minute opus revolves around the cold, dark, prolonged builds of songs like “Swarmed,” “Solitary,” and “Lust Blood,” Diestractions from the Truth’s thirty-six minutes exists via the short, catchy “Curse,” “Haunt,” and “Beneath the Root.” This year’s release is an experiment of sorts, taking you through all the moods and musical influences that cry, laugh, and doze in the mind of Ocell. And, in almost half the runtime, Diestractions is equally as rich as its predecessor. There’s always room to grow and you can feel Ocell stepping out of his comfort zone. But if you ever meet the dude that has a kick pedal on his snare, be wary. The deep, dark secrets that hide within that artwork above are slumbering behind the man’s smiling exterior.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 1,411 kbps wav
Label: Salt of the Earth Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: November 15th, 2019

Show 4 footnotes

  1. We all know I love that fucking band.
  2. Whose newest album, The Ark Burner, never hit out promo bin. Hence, no one saw a review from us. So, let me write a quick one for you: GET IT NOW.
  3. Mary Poppins, mfers.
  4. That’s right, two instrumental pieces, back-to-back.
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