Before I progress further, I want to make something clear: I’ve long held the belief that the letter “V” is not a vowel. Yes, I know, look at my screen name, but bear with me here. Call it being stubborn from years of having it drilled into my head in elementary school, but when I see it used in words like “kvlt” or “trve,” I cringe. Or if it’s used in place of an “f”, I also shudder. Case in point: Cali tech-deathsters WRVTH. How do you even pronounce that? “Ruhth?” “Rooth?” “Rivith?” I’m sure if I were Nergal, I would be jizzing spasmodically looking at their name right now. However, since this is their third album (and first with Unique Leader and under their current name), I did a bit of digging and found out this band was once Wrath of Vesuvius, so we will go with saying “wrath” and moving on. *Grumbles*
And with a gently strummed guitar melody, so begins “Harrowing Winds,” howling in with little to reflect its name whatsoever until the thick bass arrives. One thing you notice right away is just how powerful and upfront Taylor Preston’s bass is in the mix. There’s no mistaking that his basslines will be heard, and his fretwork and acrobatics are quite impressive indeed. The other thing you notice is vocalist Thomas Vasquez. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to discover the long-lost audition tapes of Chester Bennington’s (Linkin Park) tiny dog trying out for Converge? Well, a) you’re an asshole for even wanting to wonder this, and b) come get your prize, because it’s right here. In minute doses, Vasquez’s high-end screaming is powerful enough. However, over the course of the album, it wears thin when it’s kept at one pitch, and at one level of intensity (up to 11 always), for the majority of the record.
“So you don’t like the vocals much,” I hear you proclaim through your keyboard or snazzy phone or tablet. “But what of the music?” It plays out like a long, scenic, mostly peaceful and inoffensive journey to some place where you swear you’ve been before, but can’t quite make it out… plus yelping. In other words, it borrows a bit heavily from the lighter moments of groups like Animals as Leaders and Between the Buried and Me, with much-needed sprinkles of aggression to make things at least a little bit interesting, such as the incredible beginning to “Larkspur,” or the part at 4:47 of closer “Cease to Exist” where the band leaves one of its many, many tranquil parts to successfully drop a huge bomb on you. I just wish there were more moments of aggression here, as the other parts didn’t engage me like they should, though not from wont of trying.
Zack Ohren handled the production on this album, and despite it being very low on the dynamic scale, at least it doesn’t hurt like Fallujah‘s The Flesh Prevails did, although the cymbals are still quite atrocious at times. But what bothers me more is the songwriting. These guys are all clearly talented musicians. Marcus Vasquez and Jeremy Larsen are great guitarists, and Joseph Serrano is a talented drummer, but the music isn’t engaging enough. Also, yelping.
I’m torn as to what to give this album, as I find the band to be incredibly gifted and passionate about their music, and yet I’m not likely to come back to this record ever again. I really wish there was a score to reflect that, I really do, because they’re talented. Maybe the next one will floor me, at least I hope it does.