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Vehemence is a band that was highly cited by my circle of metal friends in the early years of the 21st century as one of the most promising in emergent death metal, but their material has never left an impression on me for long, so I've decided to turn back time and re-examine their albums to see if my reaction has changed. They've since run their career on a roller coaster trajectory, signing to Metal Blade records for their rather well received sophomore God Was Created, dropped mid-decade, some of the members escaping to Abigail Williams, and then reforming a few years later to give it another go, which has yet to bear its inevitable fruit.
The Thoughts From Which I Hide, on the other hand, was a debut that showcased only a few traces of what the band would evolve into come 2002. Vehemence are often described as a 'melodic death metal' band with a difference from most European acts that explore the style, but that isn't very accurate for this record. For the most part, it's your standard mesh of old school and slamming elements simmered in a crisp, popping mix where the rich guitar tone is heavily slathered in the (perhaps too loud) grunting and barking, the drums given a grooving feel through the snap of the snares and the beats they're usually meting out along to the many chug slams of the album. For a self-released, limited run like this, the album does have a pretty clean production, though I think at times it might seem a little too tidy, gimping some of its guttural lethality.
A few of the songs definitely have some potential, like the rape/murder fantasy "I Take Your Life" which flows with some clinical riffs that draw comparisons to a mix of Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Deicide, and Pestilence. The band shows a willingness to cycle through varied dynamic climes, but they usually end up at a slow, trudging groove, perfect for the unassuming, die hard devotee of brutal USDM and slam, but not all that interesting for the rest of us. Chug and squeal, rinse and repeat. "Whore Cunt Die" once again services the band's love of the finer sex, the soundtrack to a pseudo-Mother Mary molestation and sexual crucifixion performed by a religious freak, which has a decent, catchy melody to the mute-stream of the verse. Sadly, this too turns into mediocre mosh grooves, and it's a pattern used all too often here, so even when the band decides to thrust at a higher velocity ("What You've Become" or "Devour the Rotten Flesh"), you know what you're in for eventually, 1-2 decent riffs among a herd of misfires.
The lyrics foster the same interest for misogyny that one will find in the entire strain of Cannibal Corpse style bands, though to be fair, the Arizonans do it with a more personal 'touch', trying to jump inside the mind of the killers and rapists they examine with lyrics that would very well disturb anyone not in the know to the genre. The atmospheric flourishes used in the 11:26 closer "Reconditioning the Flock" are quite surprising. Synthesizers, clean guitars and the criticism of religious sheeple all seem to handle well there, but it's too late to save the uneven contents up to that point. The Thoughts From Which I Hide is hardly more lamentable than many death metal albums at the turn of the century, but it's well outside the realm of those albums worth tracking down for their musical value, and disappears all too quickly from the conscience despite its grisly lyrical fixations.
Vehemence shall likely be remembered best as the band that crafted "God Was Created", a milestone in melodic death metal (Read: death metal with overt melodic elements; Not melodeath a la At The Gates). And it probably should remain this away, given how poorly their latest record is rated (I've not heard it) and how, well, mediocre this one is. It isn't horrible, but given expectations, I would expect far better from Vehemence.
For most bands, a first album can either be imbued with the same youthful spirit that permeated the musicians that drafted and recorded it, or it can be a clumsy assortment of misplaced or half-formed ideas, with songs that don't quite seem together. Albums that fall into the former include gems such as Slayer's Show No Mercy, Death's Scream Bloody Gore, or for a more modern example, Decapitated's Winds of Creation. Albums that fall into the latter are likely too numerous to name, but suffice to say, this one is among them.
In regard to specific criticisms of this album's elements, I would first draw attention to the production job. Strangely, I've no complaints concerning an inability to make audible the bass, as I'm able to hear it with no effort at all. In fact, it would seem the drums and the bass are quite high in the mix, whereas the guitar tone is quite subdued and difficult to hear. The vocals, however, are at the top of everything, and appear to exist on a separate sonic plane away from everything else, not actually fitting in with the music by the mere matter of it's placement.
Aside from production, the band is somewhat near what they would be doing on the next album, but not quite. One can easily descry that the same band that manufactured "God Was Created" is playing here, but as stated before, the ideas are not fully formed yet. The riffs, while still having a melodic feel, are still somewhat based in traditional/brutal death metal, not yet near the complete focus in an overt melody as it would soon be. And I think that was part of the problem. Either they had not quite shaken off such influences enough to attain that unique sound, or they were just trying to play something deliberately extreme. It reminds me of Cannibal Corpse, and that is not a good thing. Vocally, this album has less variation, mostly staying with the very guttural tone with some higher growls, and maybe screams, popping up every once in a while during a song.
The only other issue musically is that the songs come to feel very long, even though most do not exceed seven minutes. Unusually, the longest track is the most bearable, with it's odd delve into the progressive territory they would soon go into more fully. They might have been more tolerable condensed into about half the length they come up as, but then they'd only be quarter-formed ideas instead of half-formed ideas. Should one be expecting a concept album, you will be disappointed, as the lyrics available on this very site indicate. They read as typical gore lyrics with the perpetrator somewhat humanized in an odd fashion, an interesting idea, but the writing leaves something to be desired. This was my feeling on the concept of God Was Created as well: A great concept, but writing that did not quite fulfill it’s potential.
You may wonder why my scoring is not as low as it perhaps should be given my disposition thus far in this review. Essentially, I feel this album, while having many faults, was not entirely horrendous, and a stepping stone (A rough draft, perhaps) towards a great album. Would I advise buying this? Not really, even if you already have their other two works. If you're an absolute fanatic for this band and you MUST have everything they've ever done, well, I don't see how my review could sway you in any direction anyway, so just go get it!