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Vehemal > The Atom Inside > Reviews
Vehemal - The Atom Inside

The Eternal Spotshine of the Sunless Mind - 88%

Liquid_Braino, August 5th, 2018

Polished black metal with symphonic embellishments was quite the rage 20 years ago, an evolution, or divergence, depending on perspective, from its primitive frosty roots to melodically inclined bombast in which the dark atmosphere relied on foreboding synthesizer progressions rather than lo-fi treble-heavy production values. These days it feels more like a retro-style than other offshoots such as that blackgaze stuff and the orthodox dissonant lunacy, and Vehemal is one of those bands keeping the melodic and symphonic flag-waving alive. I guess it's good old black metal, in as much as Diabolical Masquerade were considered black metal, but there's other aspects of the band's overall impression that sets them even further than the genre's origins.

The sound is immense and sonically clear. The mixing on the drums results in an almost machine-like clarity and precision; those double bass kicks striking like the most modern of power metal productions. The rhythm guitar has some mid-range to it, and there's hardly any reverb to muddy up the palm-muted riffing moments. The keyboards don't overwhelm the guitars, but they are certainly prominent, much like the style's forebears in the late 90's. What's really interesting to me though is the well-defined bass presence, not only in volume, but in sheer exuberance in performance. Songs such as "Milky Way" and "Avenge the Earth" possess numerous sick bass runs that are dexterous with a flurry of finger-flying.

I don't know, I guess there's just something about technical bass noodling that enhances a cosmic vibe in heavy music, and Vehemal is certainly rolling with it. A dark yet crystalline interstellar black metal showcase, with lyrics and synth passages sending you off to the far reaches of the galaxy where black planets roll without aim and shit. The guitar riff-work occasionally treads into sonic space opera territory, with the driving rhythmic patterns often overlain with lead guitar melodies that add another dimension to their sound.

I wouldn't completely throw out the "black metal" designation though, as there's still attributes pertaining to your classic symphonic metal favorites. There's plenty of hyper blast-beats that segue into slower waltzy tempos so common of the era, and of course there's the raspy vocals. Let's focus on that for a spell. Martine Bourque has venom in her tone; a psychotic witchy delivery that's barely human though distinctively feminine. Her voice is a powerhouse of seething nastiness and fury, and her words follow the tempos rhythmically rather than haphazardly, augmenting the songs with an even more propulsive edge. It's like the rabid screech of Opera IX's Cadaveria meets the punctual thrust of Znöwhite's Nicole Lee. I fucking love it! There's also a fair amount of clean spoken word bits that provide a cool atmospheric shift whether she's reciting the words in English or French.

A couple of the songs, personal favorite "Univers zéro" and "Progéniture échouée", are sung in French, adding an extra bit of chic character to my anglophone ears. Granted, one of the few things I remember language-wise from my time in Quebec was that saying something along the lines of, and I'm just going to write this phonetically, "ESTEE KOLASE TABARNAK" very loudly in a public place could win you new friends for life. Try it!

What's really important to state about this debut effort is that while it can be considered melodic or even symphonic black metal, it truly doesn't sound like some retro-worship at all. The astral themes and the chord progressions bear enough of a sci-fi element to set them apart, and the spot-shined, though not overly sterilized, production also works in this case, packaging the whole shebang with a cinematic flair. Even the short instrumental numbers are cool, like little movie scores to some Event Horizon deal while not overstaying their welcome. As far as being black metal is concerned, I've never been a lo-fi purist and I don't care how menacing a bunch of guys look brandishing oversized pincushions on sticks. At the same time, I'm not against a good, raw-reverb-racket and plenty of the keyboard-heavy symphonic stuff was just terribly rote attempts at aping In the Nightside Eclipse, but Vehemal is something new to me. The voice and the sci-fi angle are stand-out qualities, and I dig that bass like a motherfucker. The melodic guitar leads that are so constant throughout these songs unfortunately never really go for it technically, but other than that, I'm sold. It's been a while now, so hopefully a new release of whipping outer space câlice is on the way.

Celestial atoms appearing inside are spectacular - 90%

slayrrr666, November 12th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Independent

The debut album from Canadian melodic black metallers Vehemal, “The Atom Inside,” features many impressive elements for a young band in the genre and starts them off quite well in their journey.

This is a pretty impressive debut that has some good parts to it. The riffing here is one of the most important, especially in a melodic black metal band which needs to balance the fury of the harsher black metal patterns with infusions of melody that the style was never written for and still come across with a biting intensity, which accomplishes both of these in spades. The focus on the harsher strains within these tracks with the use of the traditional tremolo-picked rhythms allows this to generate the same kind of atmosphere and charge throughout this with the implement of the hellfire-sounding tone so common in the usage of such arrangements. By managing to adapt the traditional methods featuring such guitar-riffs, these faster sections along the album tend to come off with rather profound intensity which is quite likeable against the melody. The other main factor utilized with the urgent riffs is that the energetic paces utilized make them all the more appealing due to their speed and frequency throughout with rapid-fire tempos providing the riff-work plenty of enjoyment.

That the band here manages to mix in melody with their furious black metal trappings is another really impressive factor here. By taking the traditional trappings of the style here with the tremolo riff-work being the focal point and then interjecting melodic lead-work over this it makes for quite a fun time here with the melody taking the form of intertwined leads over the main guitar rhythms or simply through down-beat sections of the tracks. Each feature has a focus and helps to make the melody quite apparent throughout here, as the intertwined leads are incredibly dynamic at mixing razor-wire style patterns in the more up-tempo and frantic sections of the album and counterbalancing the extremity in those rhythms which produces surprisingly-hummable riffing that still maintains an air of speed along the way. Likewise, the use of lighter segments manages to infuse the keyboards a little more prominently by dropping the intensity for sprawling, low-key works and ethereal atmospheres that provide a stellar background to place lilting guitar notes against those keyboard flourishes. The result from both of these is rather impressive.

Beyond the guitars, the band gets a lot of usage out of the keyboards here, which are quite important to their sound. For the most part, they tend to wend through the intros and interludes as background filler to provide this with the appropriately celestial and cosmic tones that are meshed well with their sound and image, while other times they’re utilized quite differently. Some tracks here use the keyboards as symphonic-styled elements where the grandiose nature and bombast of their delivery make for a much grander, fuller sound than if they were just sprinkled in their haphazardly while adding a dexterity to the music and challenging the rhythms quite nicely for a thoroughly more rewarding experience. Likewise, the blasting drumming and trinkling bass-lines make for a wholly impressive status here with their glorious intensity that fully drives this along with the appropriate fury and driving energy that’s needed on the more energetic rhythms while supplying this with enough downbeat tones to handle the melody quite well. Finally, the rasping female vocals are expertly handled here and allow this to really get a rather enjoyable sound overall.

On the whole, the band does manage to come across very well in terms of their presentation here by going for a symphonic-laden approach to melodic black metal that’s actually quite impressive in terms of how they generate these elements. Still, it features a few small areas that need fixing that highlight their youth quite easily. The first one is the over-use of the instrumental interlude here that really tends to draw focus to the fact that the album doesn’t have a whole lot of actual music in here. The three interludes comprise a third of the album as a whole, barely last a minute each and hold up the running order so that there’s not a whole large amount of original material on display here with this one comprising only six original tracks which is more in line with an EP or such release rather than a full-length. It might’ve been fine with the intro and the interlude, or the intro and outro, but all three just eats up the running time unnecessarily. As well, there’s noticeable shift in the second half to focus more on melodic arrangements and generally more symphonics in the compositions than what was featured in the upper half so that it really sticks out as being far lighter and more melodic in comparison to the harsher, more vicious tracks in the first half. This isn’t a huge detriment to the band at all, but it is a noticeable mark against the album.

The first half here manages to get a lot right while managing the harsher strains quite well. Instrumental intro ‘Les Particules Élémentaires’ starts off with light keyboards and gradual building atmospheres slowly forming into an ominous build. Proper first song ‘Progéniture Échouée’ shows the bands’ potential with light guitar trinkling and build-up drumming blasting into mid-tempo blast with fiery tremolo riffs against blistering drumming and the gradual downbeat turn into lighter atmospheres against the melodic leads, fluid vocals and dynamic drumming that builds throughout the final half for an outstanding album highlight. The intense ‘Cosmic Collision’ follows up with dynamic drumming and grandiose keyboards along the blistering tempo with whirlwind riff-work and blasting drumming that continually builds into symphonic keyboards that frantically charge through chaotic sections laced with melodic guitar lines and furious rhythms along the finale for thrilling back-to-back highlights. Ever more impressive, ‘Univers Zéro’ features pounding drum-work and tight, charging riffing barreling through up-tempo paces with furious rhythms and stellar melodic interjections among the pounding rhythms firing off intense riffs with an influx of melodic leads alongside the symphonic keyboards blazing into the final half for the album’s overall best track. The instrumental interlude ‘La Relativité Nébuleuse’ ends this with rumbling drumming and celestial keyboards with grandiose imagery and group chanting amid the symphonic approach to settle things for the second half.

In contrast, the second half here manages to come off as a little softer and more melodic against the first half. ‘Milky Way’ exemplifies this with classical keyboards, charging riffs and pounding drumming with melodic leads brimming through the tight riffing and furious tremolo rhythms charging through the celestial ambience blasting through the mid-section with the intensity kicked into the symphonic-laced finale for a charging, enjoyable effort. Likewise, ‘Avenge the Earth’ continues this with a stellar keyboard intro with pounding drumming and melodic guitars buzzing through mid-tempo paces with rather tight riffs, light melodies and a slight dip in intensity before blasting through frantic paces and fiery rhythms leading into the classical patterns in the mid-tempo finale for another fine melody-heavy track. The title track is the best of these efforts with classical keyboards and pounding rhythms with pounding drumming crushing through clanking bass-lines and furious tremolo-picked rhythms alongside the sweeping keyboards and pounding drumming with dexterous riff changes charging throughout the blistering final half for a slightly more intense variation and another grand highlight. The final instrumental, ‘Les Synapses Planétaires’ uses symphonic keyboards and grandiose rhythms alongside the merry rhythms along the joyous atmosphere throughout for a fine ending all around.

For a debut album this was quite an overall entertaining and enjoyable effort that really has a lot of positive points to spread forward in their career while generally having only a few problems that tend to hold this one down. This is certainly a band to keep an eye on in the future for fans of this particular genre or fans of just amazingly-sounding melodic black metal in general.