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Both logical and unpredictable - 79%

we hope you die, October 11th, 2021

Progressive blackened death metal is a genre that promises much but delivers little. More often than not it manages to take the worst elements of all three antecedents and concoct them into conceptually overbaked nonsense music. The directionless and frustrating riffs for riffs sake of death metal at its worst, the endless dissonance and abrasion of modern black metal with little to say for itself beyond negations, and progressive music’s well documented penchant for excessive musicality.

But a bad worker always blames their tools. And on their latest LP ‘Abhorrent Fervor’, Vortex of End manage to deliver on some of the forsaken promises of their chosen workhouse, at least far more successfully than many of their contemporaries. They offer a fine balance of nihilism and hope, of urgency and moments of reflection, of aggression and vulnerability. This is frantic music that certainly throws a lot of riffs at the listener, but these salads are gradually pealed back to reveal passages of open ended space, where the tempo slows, the guitars open out and settle on chord sequences centred around more traditional cadences, and lead melodies are able to unfold themselves as they bounce between euphoria and sorrow.

Vocals stick with a mid-range growl that wouldn’t be out of place on a hardcore album, with subtle reverb applied to properly integrate the performance into the mix. Clean chants also make an appearance, giving Vortex of End another and much needed atmospheric lever to pull on when required. Given the density of the music itself, the production is relatively straightforward. No excessive caverncore leanings, no overly zealous distortion. All is focused on creating a sharp and well articulated picture, giving full voice to the percussive qualities of the riffs, and the tight, frantic drums that frame them. Having said that, there is enough bottom end to the guitars to give power and definition to the slower passages of atmospheric/melodic doom, ditto for the lead guitars.

It’s not the speed and density of riffs, it’s what you do with them, we need to be assured that they’re going somewhere, and Vortex of End deliver on this requirement in spades. It’s not the use of dissonance or harsh aesthetics in general, it’s placing these elements in their proper context. Music is, after all, the art of contrast. And again, ‘Abhorrent Fervor’ is packed with more traditional melodic forms throughout, given greater impact and meaning by virtue of being sandwiched between points of atonality. And it’s not technical prowess itself that should be admired, it’s directing this ability to something beyond clever musical in-jokes that leave a wider audience feeling hollow. And whilst there is certainly plenty of musicianship on display on ‘Abhorrent Fervor’, all is put in service of a wider narrative.

The result if a kind of organised chaos. No, this is not the densest release you will hear this year, nor is it the darkest or most abrasive. But in using their obvious raw musical talents, Vortex of End have managed to craft a release of well balanced energy, between unbridled speed and power and open ended size. In tempering the wanton self-indulgence common to this style, both aesthetically and musically, they have created a work that is both broad in the scope of its emotional reach and admirable from an intellectual standpoint as we witness these compositions unfold in a way that is both logical and unpredictable.

Originally published at: Hate Meditations