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Swing and a hit - 93%

MikeyC, January 18th, 2019

I find there is something extremely satisfying as a fan of metal when a band gets better as they gel more as a band. Sure, debut albums tend to be the yardstick for fans, especially for older bands, but I love seeing bands progress. Cattle Decapitation is one band where I enjoy their later work as they cleaned up their songwriting and added more elements to their music. I also enjoy seeing Rotting Christ move through their different stages of their career, all of which I like (even if their later stuff has more mixed opinion). Add Entropia to this list, too. This Polish quintet started off with a firm black metal feeling on Vesper, but their second album Ufonaut saw them start to squeeze in some extra ideas to their sound. Three years later out comes this album Vacuum, and now Entropia have taken their sound to even more psychedelic extremes, and have easily produced their best album to date.

The six tracks here are all of the highest quality, where I feel the shorter songs and longer songs have their own roles to play. For Vacuum, the two shorter songs here being “Astral” and “Hollow” tend to act like segues between the other longer songs. “Astral” is a more intense melodic black metal number with a great main riff that evolves nicely into intriguing leads later on. “Hollow” is a relatively lighter piece musically, but the vocals are raspier and stressful. I tend to prefer the latter, as I find it fits a little more snug, but both songs are awesome in spite of their brevity.

The other four tracks are where the real highlights happen. Firstly, in these tracks there are long sections of instrumentation, letting the music breathe and expand naturally. In “Wisdom” and “Vacuum,” the vocals don’t kick in until the end of the song. The band realises that they can get immersive without vocals, and, for me personally, I can get more invested and involved in the music and how it progresses. For the title track, the mid-section has a more intense black metal feel, flanked on both sides by the more post-black riffing and drum patterns, giving the track a real sense of movement. By the time the vocals arrive, after over 10 minutes, you feel like you’ve listened to a complete song. Feels good, man. This rings true for the other three tracks, in that the songs feel like complete pieces of art. Each one has their own personality, but the main traits are all Entropia and fit tightly within this album. All up, you’re left with a nearly hour-long piece where by the end of “Endure,” the ending guitar lines fade away and you’re left buggered in a good way, like you’ve just done an intense workout at the gym.

Now, the real reason Vacuum works so well, for me, is the swing vibes. The most apparent is the opener “Poison,” my personal favourite track here. I dare you to listen to the verses and not have the instrumentation get stuck in your head, because the black-metal-meets-swing/jazz flair to the drumming in particular is extremely addictive. The riffing also has an experimental psychedelia to them. Consider what a love child between Mithras and Oranssi Pazuzu might sound like and you would be somewhat enroute to what the riffing here would be. “Poison” is the most blatant song in that it pulls out all the stops to be experimental. I mentioned earlier that “Vacuum” is black metal flanked by post-black elements; “Poison” is essentially the opposite, in that the beginning and end lay down a more orthodox black metal feel but the long mid-section is pure heroin. “Wisdom” and “Vacuum” both use the same swing feel and it’s just a total delight to hear this style being drawn out.

Having said that, I feel like the album goes through three distinct levels, so to speak: “Poison” is definitely the most obviously experimental piece, and shows the evolution of the band as a whole. The next three songs would be the second level, where the swing beats are still there but they are set in a groove and the black metal comes into play a little more, and they set the tone for the rest of the album. But then the final two tracks almost do away with the theme altogether, especially “Endure” which possesses a more orthodox black with sniffs of post-black, particularly as the song closes out. This doesn’t mean the song is any less superior, though – the riffs here hit just as hard and are the song's biggest highlight. The end of the song, where the drums slowly dissipate for the melodic riff to close things out, becomes a fitting way to end the album because by then you are gassed.

Honestly, Vacuum is just great. It’s the sound of an evolving, maturing band, coming out of their shell and adding in outside influences. The riffs and drumming are way more interesting than they have any business of being, the vocals are forceful, and the production is clear and punchy, allowing it all to come out and hit you in the face. With all the songs being six-letter words, it even makes the CD packaging really nice. The swing overtones are the real selling point, and why I like this so much and why I keep coming back to this.