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Vehemence - Forward Without Motion


by Matt Hensch

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Vehemence, before splitting up, made the valiant yet futile effort to steer melodic death metal in its intended direction. Their first and third full-length records, "The Thoughts from Which I Hide" and "Helping the World to See," respectively, are tolerable, but their second album, "God was Created," is a zenith in melodic death metal, methinks. On that particular release they matched death metal's merciless stride with dense melody that created songs that were ruthless yet enriched by depth. The band's other stuff isn't much to get giddy over, but it is better than the fair-weather standard of a style gone banal. Vehemence reunited, as deactivated projects are wont to do, and with them comes the smell of familiar aphrodisiacs, which include sweeping melodic movements and the marbled, bloated remains of something the group is probably using in lieu of a sex doll.

"Forward Without Motion" picks up where the band left off, making the near-decade it took to make the album seem inconceivable. The only major change that had occurred within the group's style had to do with vocalist Nathan Gearhart handling all vocals rather than just taking on guttural growls. Age, it seems, took its toll on Mark Kozuback, who added screams and shouts to the fold. Those vocal styles aren't abandoned, as the placement of the higher end of the harsh vocal spectrum are slotted familiarly. Gearhart heaves out stomach-turning growls as though he hasn't aged a day, while the shrieks and screams, previously not under his control, run parallel to Kozuback's. The vocals ring a familiar chime that is far from antiquated, and it is a semblance felt throughout.

"Forward Without Motion" is a Vehemence record in every bit of the definition: melodic grace meets bloody carnage. At times it's scary how excellent the melodies and melodic structures interweave with the death metal elements, which are far more ruthless than the average melodic death squad. "Murdered by the Earth" in particular features astounding guitar sequences that flow and weave over everlasting punishment, and here we have a monumental statement of DEATH METAL that is MELODIC. How Vehemence utilizes this combination is extraordinary. Songs both lengthy and petite dazzle with astonishing leads and riffs that captivate, all while maintaining the brutal edge of death metal via blast beats and other accustomed traits.

"Forward Without Motion" took almost a decade to emerge despite Vehemence reactivating and working on the material for some time. I followed the band's progress over the years, eager to get a taste of the potential of another masterwork, and find their efforts here to be tagged by periods of time. A few of the tracks emerged several years ago on the internet, and it's no surprise they are among the record's best. "There are so Many Reasons to Give Up on Religion" captures the Vehemence balance of rich melody and feral death metal coming together in a storm of riffs and explosions. Another track, the little ode to necrophilia that you'll have no trouble finding on the tracklist, is built and paced in melodic brutality with a dead-serious atmosphere, capped off by a creepy, melancholic jam to see out its final minutes. It makes sense in context and feels natural up against the surrounding massacre.

The most interesting bit is the palpable semblance of different approaches from different periods, as though looking at rings within a tree stump. "Jim the Prophet" and another track or two carry a twang of progressive death metal la Atheist or Cynic in its unhinged riffing patterns, no doubt stemming from a binge on one of the aforementioned groups or another related project. "Forward Without Motion" is an opus of surprising variety that enjoys the fluency of a freshly flayed skin, brand spanking new but not outside the comfort zone. Time to be redundant: It sounds like a release that took its time to brew up. "Forward Without Motion" puts Vehemence back on the map, and while it's no "God was Created," the album wins the praise of dead chicks everywhere.

Vehemence - Forward Without Motion
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