V:28 - VioLution Review

by Mark Hensch

What does the end of the world sound like? On this, their third full-length album, Norway's V:28 bravely and unflinchingly imagine a world destroyed by nuclear warfare. Mixing grim atmospherics with cold, mechanical industrial and war-mongering blackened death metal, the band redefines dystopia. VioLution is nothing short of the 21st Century war machine turned to music, and a chilling, beautiful album at that.

Introductory track "Exequor" is a great example of what listeners will find on VioLution. Bleak ambience slowly washes over a landscape of deep grays, soothing the listener with calmly pounding beats. After my first moment or two of listening to this song, I realized the calming percussive elements I was hearing were actually the sound of artillery shells and smart-bombs. Never before has carpet-bombing sounded so soothing to my ears and yet retained the horror war truly conveys. It is utterly beautiful.

"Shut it Down," meanwhile, wastes no time in showing that the band has an aggressive side as well. Neck-breaking tremolo-melodies zoom past, only to be overshadowed by militant riffing and cold, robotic key tones. Forlorn melodies peek out of the icy ambience, not unlike wavering limbs struggling to free themselves from bombed-out debris. Capped off with a doomy headbanging passage, "Shut it Down" marks an excellent crash-course in V:28's startlingly nihilistic and unique sound.

"The Absolute" clanks and crashes with mechanical melancholy, the song as steely as it is sorrowful. It is here that frontman Eddie Risdal first showcases his frighteningly wide vocal range; the talented singer shelves his caustic growls for hollowed-out, spine-tingling sing-alongs. Creepy and wicked at the same time, this song toes the line between furious destruction and hardened apathy with excellent balance.

Equally well-written is follow-up "Pattern of the Weak." "Weak" skitters in with discordant notes piercing and awkward; low, pummeling and industrial violence is what follows. Like laser pinpricks on a sniper rifle, guitarist Kristoffer Oustad aims at the song's core structure and frequently blasts it with simple but heart-wrenching melodies. With the added bonus of sweeping keyboard washes and crisp electronica beats, the song ends on a slamming note that grinds bones to chalk.

"Surrender to Oblivion" floats by with choir-like washes of sound; this eerie atmosphere soon collapses under the pressure of crushing, methodical guitar mayhem. The slow-paced riffs snake through vast and complex progressions, all of which are tinged with ethereal keys. A guitar solo mid-song patiently glitters like a burning oil field, only to flicker out into the vestiges of pounding metal and an eventual decay into humming white noise. At times soul-splintering, at others serene and peaceful, "Oblivion" is less a song, and more of an experience.

The awesomely titled "World Wide Bombing Day" commits strafing runs with intensely inhuman blackened death metal. As it sweeps lazily past again and again, the song rests with iron-chilled ambience before making dive after dive into blistering brutality. If anything, this cut shows that V:28 know how to seriously blast their poor fans into particles of irradiated dust.

The moody "Desert Generator" takes things down a notch; the song's evil but mellow opening chords soon transitioning into screech-laden stealth raids. Ironically enough, the song's quieter beginning ends up paving the way for one of VioLution's most destructive assaults.

The absolutely ferocious "Can You See the Light Now?" twists and turns with thumb-screw precision and agony. Writhing like some massive, metallic snake, the guitar patterns coil-and-uncoil around annihilating chug. With all the fury of total war, the song lays waste with what are definitely the most relentless, hellish, and scourging passages of sound on the entire album. Further refined by hallucinogenic keys, the song dies down into a creepy binary language utterly devoid of compassion.

Closing track "When Entropy Decreases" is a sprawling mini-epic. Its opening melodies are devoid of warmth and chill to the bone; later portions howl with epic guitars and more of the band's cleverly soulless programming. Much like the album as a whole, the thing is gripping but detached, like a machine watching the extinction of mankind and documenting it for future explorers---all to the glorious sound of a pulsing orchestra. To be blunt, it is brilliant.

The eradication of mankind by its own foolish actions is a difficult theme, and the misanthropy required for adequately and impartially conveying it requires a truly talented band. V:28 are that rare entity capable of performing such a task and performing it very well. In summary, if this is war, enlist now and head for the frontlines---VioLution is one battle every self-respecting metalhead should fight in.

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