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Only Partly Wicked - 59%

TheStormIRide, July 21st, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Renegados Records

Often named as the first Brazilian band to play extreme metal, Vulcano has been slogging away since their formation in 1981. With bassist turned guitarist Zhemo Rodero the lone remaining original member, Vulcano has long attempted to rekindle the magic of their early works. Largely considered a fan favorite, 1986's Bloody Vengeance was a raging slab of blasting and bestial metal that called to mind the likes of country mates Sarcófago. While not everything that the band has released since then has been a disappointment, they really have failed to recapture what really made Bloody Vengeance so god damned fun. The band's 2014 full length, Wholly Wicked, has its moments of raging fun but it really fails to capture that chaotic cult charm.

Perhaps it was their extremely loud and thumping bass coupled with the frenetic and accented delivery of the original singer, Angel, and the fast as fuck instrumentation that raged with an intensity that couldn't pause for the likes of technical proficiency that made their debut what it was. Somewhere over thirty-three years and ten albums Vulcano became a different beast. It could be that long fourteen year pause between 1990 and 2004, but honestly I consider 2004's Tales From the Black Book one of Vulcano's better albums, so it's something else. The band's intensity has tapered off and, while I would like to contribute it to Angel no longer singing, the last album with him at the helm, Five Skulls and One Chalice, wasn't anything to write home about.

In the twenty-eight years since the release of Bloody Vengeance there has been a shift in the central foundation of Vulcano. The music no longer consists of blasting energy and frenetic composition, rather the focus is on controlled pummeling and tempered aggression via thrash riffing and shouted vocals. While that might work for some bands, this is Vulcano we're talking about. When someone mentions them it's not because of their technical prowess, it's because of their once raging intensity. I'm not saying that 2014's Wholly Wicked is a complete flop, it's a mediocre album by a once great band. The few flashes of brilliance throughout the album really emphasize just how meandering and forced the rest of it sounds.

Tracks like “Thirst for Vengeance” show off some raging thrashy riffs and blasting drums, but Vulcano interjects these oddly placed bits of melody and somewhat intricate cyclical guitar riffing that just causes all momentum to be lost. The entire album plays out like that, though; when things start to get good, be it a dirty solo and rollicking back beat or a filthy blasting piece of thrashing riffage, something happens to disturb the waters and completely kill the flow. If the band could go with the paces of “Daughters of Pagan Rituals” for the entirety, then it would be a different story, as that track is a rager with blazing guitars, dirty solos and a bashing rhythm section. Most of the album just meanders along with some thrashy riffing scattered about with nothing really tying the whole process together.

Judging from 2011's Drowning in Blood and 2013's The Man the Key the Beast, the music on Wholly Wicked isn't that big of a surprise, but I will always compare everything this band does to Bloody Vengeance. This band can really bring it home when they're on fire so it's unfortunate that most of this is watered down. With only fleeting glimpses into the sound that made them infamous, Wholly Wicked doesn't do this band justice. Thirty-three minutes should not feel this long. I guess it's not bad for what it is but it's not what it could be.

Written for The Metal Observer.