Viserion – Natural Selection Review

For a relatively young genre, metal has found its fair share of adherents who quickly discovered their musical niche and haven’t budged from that sound. While this applies to both listeners (I’ll proudly wave the tattered OSDM banner until the day I die) and practitioners, it’s most noticeable with new and emerging bands not only harken back to a particular sound, but actively refuse to grow beyond it. Much like the Vogons in the immortal tome A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, these bands refuse to evolve. This may merely be my own bias showing, but this phenomenon seems to be most pronounced amongst the black metal set. Ever committed to all things trv, it would appear these corpse painted cretins believe that metal peaked somewhere around 1993. So when I picked up Viserion’s debut Natural Selection, I was understandably apprehensive. But given the attention-grabbing cover and a complete lack of knowledge about the band, I decided to give it a spin. Who knows? I might be unexpectedly bearing witness to a second wave-shattering, genre-innovating masterpiece.

“Second wave shattering”? No. Second wave worshiping? Absolutely. Like so many black metal albums that overflow the fetid AMG promo sump, Natural Selection is chock full of tremolos, shrieked vocals, blast beats and lower-fi production. In short, you find what you’ve come to expect from the countless black metal fiends who so eagerly ape the masters. Viserion even mention Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Behemoth as influences in their promo material. And there’s nothing wrong with that approach, per se. As many reviewers here will attest, sometimes the most satisfying listen can be found when new bands solidly tread old ground. If this were the case with Natural Selection, you’d no doubt spot a higher score at the bottom of this review. Unfortunately, what you’ll find on Viserion’s latest isn’t merely uninspired black metal; It’s uninspired black metal poorly presented, sloppily performed and embarrassingly executed.

Something went terribly wrong on Natural Selection. Not a single one of these seven tracks feels like a fully-fledged, fleshed-out song, and instead seem like a collection of disjointed pieces haphazardly crammed together. The lack of even basic transitions give all the songs a halting quality that would be hard to overcome, even in the presence of quality riffs (which they aren’t). Opening track “Desolation” makes this problem obvious at the outset, closing with an unexpected, yawn-and-you-miss-it fade out. The out-of-sync drumming on “Tortured Souls” makes its over five-minute run time unbearable, and “Vaporized” features uncomfortably moaned vocals that sound like Bub from Day of the Dead took a turn on the mic. Titular track “Natural Selection” includes some of the clumsiest guitar work Viserion has to offer, with a drum track that sounds like it was recorded for a completely separate album. Like many of the other problems apparent on “Natural Selection,” the incongruous drumming is both persistent and terminal.

It’s hard to find anything particularly positive to share about this album. I suppose there is something to be said for Viserion’s willingness to produce a work completely beholden to, as they put it, “black metal’s most fertile and explosive period — the early to mid-1990s.” Since early 2020, during these tumultuous and uncertain times, many bands found renewed inspiration and sought refuge in music as a creative outlet. Maybe there’s something morbidly admirable about actively refusing to grow in the face of such dramatic cultural shifts, and instead choosing to copy a sound established nearly three decades ago. If you’re going to put nostalgia above creativity, your final product needs to, at the very least, reach the level of what came before. And on Natural Selection, its clear that the band simply don’t have the abilities to pull that off. 

I never feel good about writing a negative review. I genuinely want to enjoy every album I dredge out of the swampy promo pit. That discomfort goes double for the extremely low score I doled out here. But after repeat listens and some significant soul-searching, I couldn’t bring myself to go any higher. While the black metal basics are present, everything else, from the performances, to the songwriting to the mix, I found overwhelmingly lacking. I’m not sure where Viserion go from here, but if Natural Selection is a preview of things to come, I worry they’re dangerously close to extinction.

Rating: 0.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: instagram.com/viserion_official | viserion.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: August 13th, 2021

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