Vredehammer – God Slayer Review

Vredehammer’s sophomore album, Violator, was released almost 8 years ago. The deadly blackened death record made it onto my very first top 10 list for AMG on account of the electrifying energy and excellent hooks. Successor Viperous slithered into my HM’s, and I may have underrated it at that. It increased the density of sound and used synths for a slick, neon battering ram. So when Steel waved the gorgeous-looking new promo over the writer’s pit, I leapt for it so fast and violently, three Melvins are still in intensive care. Is Vredehammer going three for three on my end-year list?

Not only is it gonna be on the list, it might obliterate all the competition altogether! Comparing God Slayer to Viperous, Per Valla (founder and sole bandmember, who does everything except drums) claims to have composed God Slayer with an increased focus on hooks rather than speed. He’s only about half right. Granted, the hooks are many, and they are razor-sharp, utterly addictive, and will stick in your skull morning til night. But well over half of God Slayer is every bit as expeditious as its predecessor. The opening salvo is a triple serving of Vredehammer at its best: muscular riffs at high speed, Valla’s crunchy growls, and drums not unlike a murderous machine (this time courtesy of Dominator, of Dark Funeral and Nordjevel fame). The first act culminates in the colossal violence of “God Slayer” whose indomitable chorus and epic mid-track build make me feel able and eager to reduce mountains to rubble with my forehead. Take this track into the gym and you will be hurling the barbells into the ceiling.

Though every track is a feast of riffs fit for a demigod warlord, each has a clear, singular identity. “From the Abyss” has an apocalyptic vibe with a focus on a single main hook, whereas “The Joker” utilizes frequent speed changes and a looser song structure to keep you on the wrong foot. There are epic dark fantasy overtones to “The Dragons Burn” and its shimmering tremolos, while the furious and feral “Blood of Wolves” lives up to its title with sheer unbridled aggression. The synths that made such an industrial affair of Viperous are less prominent, moving the focus back to the guitars, but they return to the spotlight on a few occasions, particularly on the album’s third act. One such occasion is “Death Becomes the New Day,” which stands out in a line-up of excellence as the sole ‘merely really good’ track, lingering a bit too long on medium intensity. But hot on its heels comes the extra-catchy “Product Human Slave” with its death ‘n roll rhythms and cyberpunk interlude to restart the riff-machine.

If you’re still waiting for a ‘but’ you can keep waiting. All I got is a tiny handful of minor nags and niggles, most of which have their own buts. Closer “Obliterator” isn’t quite as memorable as most of the tracks preceding it and ends the album a bit sudden, but it’s still very impressive with a killer ascending midsection. The dynamic range has gone off a cliff from a 9 to a 5, but somehow the production comes out none the worse for wear. The master sounds great, compact and burly but not overly tiring on the ears despite the often dense sound and high tempo. There is little detectable loss of impact to the delectable drums, and the mix is spot on, with nothing getting buried or doing the burying.

Vredehammer has repeatedly demonstrated to be in the upper echelons of blackened death metal. Violator meshed raw power with addictive hooks, Viperous upped the speed and unflinching attitude. God Slayer combines the best of both to become the peak of the band’s illustrious career. It’s five gallons of adrenaline pumped through a wrought iron IV. It’s a nuclear train with no brakes that won’t even slow down after it leaves the tracks. It’s addictive like speedballs and victory, and as catchy as Captain Trips from The Stand. It’s singular in its vision of uncompromising headbangability with all the variety of a perfect anthology. It’s 40 minutes of me wanting to bare-knuckle mythological beasts to death. It’s the best album I’ve heard this year. Get it.

Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: PCIM
Label: Indie Recordings
Websites: vredehammer.bandcamp.com | vredehammer.no | facebook.com/vredehammer
Releases Worldwide: May 24th, 2024

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