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For the most part, I’m not a huge fan of modern styles of technical death metal. You know, the kind everyone always seems to be praising or complaining about: constant blasting, nonstop confounding sweeps, static and boring grunts, maybe the occasional bass drop or pinch harmonic. I suppose that’s the reason why I find a fair amount of enjoyment in this debut by Vengeful, a fairly unknown Canadian death metal band. This is about as “technical” as metal music gets; every instrument is precise to a mechanical degree, shifting between tempos in unusual manners, and if the riffs or drumbeats were tabbed out they sound like they would sprawl all over the place. The Omnipresent Curse isn’t my pick for any sort of newest death metal masterpiece, but while it’s on the album provides some excellent hammering rhythms and grooves.
When you get down to it, the reason why Vengeful are so successful among a sea of Origin-worshippers is how riff-driven their music is. Riffs are the number one priority to Vengeful, and every song here demonstrates that. The band’s riffing style is reminiscent of later Gorguts (without the bizarre instrumentation) combined with Nile and maybe a dash of Blessed Are the Sick/Covenant-era Morbid Angel. The band pretty much has two settings: extremely fast death metal riffing based on single note repetition with a unique melodic flair, and these very intense midpaced riffs which focus on bizarre, off-kilter rhythms. The latter kinds of riffs are probably the most memorable part of the album; they’re a sort of technical groove which really gives Vengeful a name for themselves. At the beginning of “Forsaken,” or halfway through “Lapsus,” the band brings out these crushing midpaced guitar patterns which almost resemble breakdowns with far more drum interplay and less space between notes.
Outside of these two riff styles, Vengeful keeps your interest with two additional methods of guitar playing, the first of which is simple interaction between acoustic and electric guitars. It’s not a huge part of the album, but a few songs such as “Detention” and the 20 minute long “Transcending” have these moments where the band slows down the riffs, while an acoustic guitar plucks away at a certain melody in the background. Occasionally there’s a break to acoustic guitars entirely (the beginning of “Lapsus”) and although it gives the music a slight progressive feel, it doesn’t really define the album. The other technique the band uses are those previously mentioned slow moments: not the midpaced grooves but these genuinely slow parts of songs where the band lets sustained notes ring out, forming unusual riffs with these almost relaxed chord progressions. It’s one of the most noticeable parts of the album, occurring in most songs, particularly “Anguish,” “Nightmare” and the entire first half of the great instrumental “Lapsus.” These unusual moments gives the listener a break from all intensely fast riffs and rigid midpaced bits, and this powerful sense of dynamics is why The Omnipresent Curse is able to keep me interested and entertained throughout its 50 minute long duration.
Possibly the best part of this album is the production. Yes, this is a modern band so their production is extremely modern and squeaky clean, but the guitar tone is deep and rich, not weak or lacking. The general sound of the entire band is simply crushing: the riffs are clear and not muddled at all, and the drums hammer in to your ears so clearly and forcefully it demands attention. Also, I’m sure many metalheads might have reservations about a 20 minute long death metal song, but the final track is extremely solid, possibly the best on the album. The riffs are particularly engaging, even the very first one demonstrates a newfound, second-wind sense of energy that was fading at that point on the album. Apparently Luc Lemay of Gorguts provides vocals on “Transcending,” but considering that I don’t know what the man sounds like nowadays, I’ve never really noticed this for myself. There’s a few moments when the vocals sound different, but overall Lemay’ guest spot (wherever it may be) doesn’t really contribute much to the song. Also, “Transcending” has a few guitar solos in it, which is notable considering that Vengeful don’t really play any guitar solos at all here; there’s probably only 4 or 5 on the entire album. Although I respect the band for eschewing current technical death metal conventions and putting out an album so clearly centered on riffs, a few more guitar solos could have done a lot to make the music more memorable. But hey, no sweeps at all!
The main downside to the album is the fact that all of the songs definitely sound very similar and will run together if the listener isn’t diligently paying attention. Although I’ve been able to point out specific bits of certain songs as example of the music at hand, this has only been because I listen to albums I review while writing about it. If at any other time I was asked which songs did what, I’d most likely draw a blank and would only be able to tell you general statements rather than precise ones. But that’s just the type of album The Omnipresent Curse is: fucking awesome when it’s on, but the brutality is soon forgotten after the CD stops spinning. I’d recommend this album to someone who loves a good technical battering every once in a while, but other than those moments the music might escape you. Get this if you want to hear solid technical death metal without a single sweep to be found.