Season Of Mist
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Volens Discordant
02. EPIC
03. Miserere
04. Exercitus Irae
05. Mephisto Manifesto
06. Scorcher
07. Invictus
08. Nature's Fangs
09. Spoils Of War

Back in the '90s, David Vincent was the voice of death. The debate about greatest ever vocalists in extreme metal will rage on forever, but nobody has ever delivered growled vocals with the authority and command that Vincent brought to those legendary early MORBID ANGEL albums. He may have dabbled in an assortment of musical projects since leaving the Floridian masters, but the sound of his voice at full pelt, backed by the combined skills of iconic CRYPTOPSY drummer Flo Mounier and ex-MAYHEM guitarist Rune "Blasphemer" Eriksen, still has the power to move unholy mountains. If VLTIMAS casually fulfilled all expectations with their debut album "Something Wicked Marches In" (2019),  and the largely ecstatic response suggests that they did, this long-awaited follow-up speaks of an intense, shared desire to build something lasting and monumental from this three-man whirlpool of certified talent. Its title — arrogant, abrupt, pitilessly direct — says it all.

It would be impossible to recreate the buzz that surrounded VLTIMAS when they still remained an unknown quantity. "Epic" arrives a full five years on from its predecessor, and while the band's essential spirit remains unmistakable and unchanged, these songs spend less time battering everybody into submission and more on establishing a grandiose atmosphere worthy of the trio's prowess. Haughty and unerring, the title track relishes the chance to set Vincent's devilish tones against some slow-burning, funereal churn.

Gently redolent of past glories, but firmly in VLTIMAS's self-contained musical universe, it's a shrewd introduction to an album that frequently eschews all-out war in favor of a more insidious, but no less crushing approach. When "Miserere" lets rip with a more traditional death-powered attack, that atmosphere remains and imbues the band's pinpoint destruction with a dense layer of disorienting otherworldliness. Eriksen's bleak and bilious riffs flow across Mounier's steamroller technicality with eerie smoothness, giving Vincent's brash proclamations a precise, bullying backdrop, and illuminating a sweet spot between death metal purity and something much less conventional. Amid the ominous hostility of "Exercitus Irae" and the truly unsettling "Scorcher", VLTIMAS heave and swell in mesmerizing, symbiotic union, as three undisputed badasses simply demonstrate their mastery of the form and their fierce interpersonal chemistry.

The real revelatory moments come when the tempo slows, however. The bloated hate march of "Mephisto Manifesto" is a brutish, blackened stomp with an almost comically bombastic vocal from DV and a towering, off-kilter solo from Eriksen. Even better, "Invictus" delivers a meandering, eccentric onslaught, rooted in the old school but with progressive intent writ large across every scything riff and fluid tempo change. "Epic" grinds to an imperious halt after the windswept wickedness of "Nature's Fangs" and the ornate, lightless swarm of "Spoils Of War". The latter mirrors the title track's magisterial forward motion, and spirals away to a devastating fade, with Vincent's outlaw bark echoing magnificently into the darkness.

VLTIMAS could hardly fail, given the pedigree of everyone involved, but this suggests that Vincent, Eriksen and Mounier are not leaving anything to chance. "Epic" lives up to its name and then some. Good old Dave.

Author: Dom Lawson
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