Vulcano – Eye in Hell Review

Vulcano are a classic name in extreme metal circles. After getting their start in the early 80s, the band’s 1986 debut Bloody Vengeance essentially established them as the scrappy cousins of fellow Brazilians Sarcófago, with a raw and primitive take on blackened thrash that underground diehards continue to cherish to this day. Over the years the band lost some members, went on hiatus from 1991 to 1996, and released a slew of albums that never seemed to generate as much fanfare as their debut. Other than some curious midnight listens of Vengeance, I certainly hadn’t heard anything from the group until I came across Eye in Hell while rifling through the promo bin. Freshly signed to Mighty Music, this is the the band’s eleventh studio album and shows sole founding member Zhema Rodero joined by a new drummer and a trusted cohort of musicians who’ve been with the group for a few years now. Almost four decades into their existence, do Vulcano still scorch your ass or are their brutal eruptions long behind them?

I went into Eye expecting something like modern Venom—that is, mediocre material by a band whose glory days have long passed. Instead, Eye is a surprisingly lively and ferocious album that’s far more inspired and enjoyable than I anticipated. Vulcano have apparently evolved and cleaned up their sound a lot since their Vengeance days, as today’s iteration of the band sounds more like a tight hybrid of death and thrash metal. Opener “Bride of Satan” kicks right in with burly charging riffs and the hoarse rasps of vocalist Luiz Carlos before a rapid crunchy chug gets me grinning ear to ear. It’s like modern Possessed getting zapped with a cattle prod and the fun only continues with “Cursed Babylon,” whose catchy melodic riff drives the song along while evolving and twisting its way through the verses.

What’s so surprising about Eye is not just the quality of the material, but how much the individual riffs and songs stand out. Tracks like “Sinister Road,” “Mysteries of the Black Book,” and “Cybernetic Beast” sound like Infernäl Mäjesty mixed with Razor, with an evil early thrash sound embellished with death metal elements and plenty of memorable crunchy riffs. “Evil Empire” slows things a bit with tremolo riffing and stomping belligerent chords, while the closing title track fully embraces death metal by slowing things to a nasty crawl that recalls Autopsy’s slower moments. Though it comes in at 43 minutes and 13 tracks, Eye doesn’t feel that long, which is probably due to Vulcano keeping the songs short and propulsive. Admittedly, a few cuts in the second half don’t feel particularly imaginative and do cause my eyes to glaze over a bit, but there’s still nothing here worth skipping.

Guitar duo Zhema Rodero and Gerson Fajardo are the clear stars of this show. I don’t know who wrote what material here, but the fact that Rodero and Fajardo are both well past 50 and still playing riffs this energized is something to behold.1 The two deliver plenty of menacing palm mutes and snappy thrash riffs, and while the solos are a bit less memorable, their wild and flailing quality suits the music well enough. New drummer Bruno Conrado propels everything along with a battering and aggressive performance that helps make Eye sound like it’s being played by a group of fresh young upstarts. The production job only supports this energy, with vibrant and loud guitars ringing through a clear and punchy mix.

It’s easy to write off an album like Eye in Hell before even listening to it, under the assumption that it’s just the product of an older band trying to relive the glory of their heyday. Yet Eye readily proves itself otherwise. These 13 tracks are packed with hammering rhythms and memorable riffs that roar with life and just plain kick ass, ultimately making Eye one of the most genuinely enjoyable metal albums I’ve heard this year. Listening to today’s Vulcano, I’m reminded of Hobbs’ Angel of Death,2 another older band who seemed to keep doing what they were doing out of sheer love for the genre. While that’s not always a guarantee of quality, with Eye in Hell, the results speak for themselves.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Mighty Music
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: March 13th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Rodero is, in fact, 61, which makes him older than both Cronos and Tom G. Warrior.
  2. R.I.P. Peter Hobbs.
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