What’s that? You’re tired of the progressive melodoom or whatever foofoo bullshit we’re giving Record o’ the Month to these days? Of course, you are. You want something heavier. Faster. Rawer. Something that feels like eating stale Chinese food out of a back alley garbage can while a stray cat gives birth in the background. We’ve all been there, and the solution is simple: Vomitor, who extreme metal diehards may recognize from albums like 2002 debut Bleeding the Priest. These Aussie thrashers are possibly the dirtiest-sounding band ever — dirtier than old Venom, dirtier than the space between my couch cushions, dirtier than that guy in the sleeveless Pantera shirt who always shows up to the local thrash metal gig. Their sheer grit was actually enough to turn me away for a while, and frankly they weren’t that hard to overlook: since 2012’s The Escalation the quartet have released virtually nothing other than a couple live albums and a compilation. Pestilent Death marks their fourth full-length overall and their first to break this silence.
And what a way to break it. I once saw Joseph Conrad described as “unable to write a bad book,” in the same way, Vomitor seem incapable of producing a bad riff. Simply put, their riffs strike with intent, with every ragged chord or skewered note feeling like it’s possessed with demonic purpose. Coupled with the hammering dynamics of drummer ‘Hellkunt’ (Decrepit Soul, ex-Gospel of the Horns), the ghoulish talents of guitarist ‘Horror Illogium’ (Portal), and the gruff rasps of vocalist/guitarist ‘Death Dealer,’ the overall effect is like a death-ier Aura Noir or the vagabond cousin of Deströyer 666. If “deathened thrash” were a genre, Vomitor would be the band everyone else aspires to be.
There are no fucks given with Vomitor, but there are certainly plenty of excellent songs. In fact, Pestilent Death is one of those albums where nearly every track has a riff that just burrows its way into your fucking skull. Opener “Tremolation” kicks in with battering stop-start rhythms and crooked riffs before accelerating into a tremolo attack, but the real standout comes with second track “Roar of War.” Beginning with two minutes of dirgy chords and guitar soloing that sounds like someone attacking their six-string with a power tool, “Roar” soon unleashes a cruising chug that reminds of Power Trip’s “Executioner’s Tax.” The fact that its main riff is one of the best I’ve heard this year doesn’t hurt, and follow-up “Abracadabra” maintains this energy with jumpy verse notes that hit like a bunch of drunk Australians at a country bonfire.
I could go on — the Altars-era Morbid Angel riff of “Manic Oppression,” the satanic Motorhead speed metal of “Tremendous Insane,” the predatory verses of the title track – but the point is, Pestilent Death feels like an album which Vomitor spent six years writing material and only gave us the very best. As before the production is raw as hell, with a loud buzzy guitar tone that saws through the mix and, in an old Hellhammer kind of way, almost feels disconnected from the rest of the music. Combined with the dissonant shitstorms that are supposed to be the guitar solos, things could easily have gone south, but here it just adds to the sense of garage-y charm.
Pestilent Death isn’t perfect. Songs like “Abracadabra” repeat their main riffs a little too much and don’t develop far beyond them, and though closer “Hells Butcher” has a fine mid-tempo swagger, it doesn’t quite feel like a grand enough way to end things. That said, at 32 minutes and 7 tracks in length, there’s precious little bullshit to be found, and besides the aforementioned quibbles, the songwriting is memorable and exciting. Death is an album for which it’s almost impossible to pick highlights because every song offers something to love, and as such this is sure to please fans of dirty old school thrash like early Kreator or Sodom, not to mention followers of Nocturnal Graves and other Australian acts. After six years it’s great to see Vomitor back in such fine form, and perhaps my biggest criticism is that this thing doesn’t come with a free tetanus shot. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.