Vulvodynia’s 2016 monstrosity Psychosadistic Design joined Ingested’s Surpassing the Boundaries of Human Suffering at the top of the relatively accessible slamming deathcore pile. Upon its release, it sold a boatload of copies due to its mixture of self-aware ridiculousness and a charmingly cavalier attitude towards everything but riffs. Both records were great “gateway slam” records — their production was friendly to ‘core ears and the riffs were unfairly catchy. Structurally, both took the general deathcore idea and replaced breakdowns with slams and both were a lot of fun for it. Both toed the line between excess and parody expertly, which made them easy to like and laugh along with. Three years later, Vulvodynia have returned. And have moved, interestingly, into similar waters as the latest Ingested full-length with Mob Justice.
Mob Justice is a slamming deathcore record at heart, but it implements plenty of modern death metal elements, much like Ingested did on The Level Above Human. One notable change is that the subject matter got far more serious, which gives the music on Mob Justice a noticeably different aura than Psychosadistic Design. Akin to the excellent Korpse, Vulvodynia’s subject matter here is real life atrocity, with their focus being on their native South Africa. The title track deals with “necklacing,” an abhorrent manner of public execution carried out by people who have renounced humanity and become savage beasts. “Nyaope” is about a harrowing drug epidemic that plagues poorer regions of South Africa. Like Korpse, Vulvodynia’s subject matter may inform the listener of real-world horrors they were previously unaware of.
With the theme established, we move to the music. The title track launches into a set of riffs that reminds of Ingested’s debut in a good way, being pummeling, relatively accessible for those not sold on slam, and catchy at once. “Famine” chugs along with plenty of adrenaline and has some high energy Dimebag-esque whammy pedal squealing that works perfectly. Vocalist Duncan Bentley puts in an excellent performance, gurgling, growling, and grunting away like a mad vocal acrobat. “Nyaope” reminds me most of Psychosadistic Design, focusing on punishing the listener with slam-adjacent riffing and the most ridiculous vocal performance I’ve heard all year courtesy of Gutalax’s Martin Matoušek, which is best described as half-melodic cricket noises. This little throwback to the gratuitous fun of slam as heard on Psychosadistic Design embraces the hugely entertaining whimsical brutality of Guttural Slug’s debut, and it was a treat to hear – it’s also a bit of cathartic comic relief. Guitarists Kris Xenopoulos and Luke Haarhoff put on great performances, churning out quality riffs consistently and employing some great leads by any genre’s standard, particularly in “Reclaim the Crown Part II: Risen from Ash.”
Much like Ingested’s last full-length as compared to their debut, Vulvodynia have improved as songwriters and taken their lyrical subject matter away from typical slam topics as heard in old Devourment, Epicardiectomy, and Cephalotripsy. The gains here have come at the cost of the visceral thrill of knowingly silly slamming deathcore that goes hard in the funniest ways. Vulvodynia are still great songwriters, but they’re aiming for writing more traditionally good death metal songs instead of the obnoxious slamming-deathcore-fests that characterized Psychosadistic Design. This change was surprisingly jarring, as the songs are actually taking themselves seriously and not going for the musical equivalent of B-movie excess anymore. There are no “Vulvodynia 2019” callouts, but we’re treated to a well-structured, engaging, and humorless instrumental in “Echoes of the Motherland.” It’s almost like making Mortal Kombat a more complex and tactical fighter but making sure to keep the fatalities – those looking for more seriousness and complexity will relish the change, but others will miss the old ways. But both will agree that the essence of Mortal Kombat remains.
Mob Justice was the next logical step for Vulvodynia to take, as they couldn’t out-ridiculous Psychosadistic Design without trying way too hard and then ruining the whole endeavor. The band has moved from celebrating the goofiness and effrontery of slam through slamming deathcore to forging their own path in the overcrowded genre. Far as slamming deathcore goes, Vulvodynia remains among the best games in town alongside Within Destruction and Ingested. What all three of these bands have is an identity, something different and interesting about them which sets them apart instead of just marginally better riffs. The band gels wonderfully as a unit, Bentley is a great vocalist, and the riffs are there but in some different forms than last time. Mob Justice is a resounding success.