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VHOL - Vhol Review

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VHOL - Vhol

VHOL - Vhol

Profound Lore Records
Few releases this year have been as highly anticipated as the self-titled debut from VHOL. But how could you expect any different considering the pedigree of its members? Consisting of modern doom legend Mike Scheidt (YOB) on vocals, guitarist John Cobbett (Hammers of Misfortune, ex-Ludicra), bassist Sigrid Sheie (Amber Asylum, Hammers of Misfortune), and Aesop “He Who Must Not Be Tamed” Dekker (Agalloch, Worm Ouroboros, ex-Ludicra) on percussion, musical endowment was never in question. The question then becomes “Can they deliver on the potential as it looks on paper?” The answer is a resounding “yes!”

At its core, Vhol is predominantly a black metal album but it’s not as grim as all that. An infusion of punk rock attitude takes it to a different place. The rise and fall of tremolos are joined by the looseness and reckless abandon of old school punk. The rebellious spirit of black metal and punk are the lifeblood of the album, pumping that energy forth from start to glorious finish. Most tracks take on their own feel between the two genres while integrating each other, as well as classic rock and early thrash.

As with a well crafted beer, the album’s depth is not revealed at first taste. Returning again and again, the subtleties not immediately apparent rise to the surface as it lingers on the palate. The more time spent with Vhol, the more its true character shines through. The four basic ingredients necessary for this concoction cannot become such a potent brew all on their own. Passion, drive, and willingness to push boundaries are all imbued into VHOL, fermenting the album into the unique experience that it is

Each member’s contribution is showcased, making the album more than simply a side project. Sheie’s bass growls like an empty stomach throughout while also becoming the focal point for periods. Cobbett’s superb songwriting makes the listener’s ears dance like marionettes, propelling the album and giving it its artful soul.

Dekker makes the absolute most of what sounds like a minimal kit, as volatile and dangerous as a runaway train yet able to rein it in when called for. That talent provides the backdrop for the inimitable Mike Scheidt. Scheidt’s familiar clean warble cannot be missed. However, he pushes beyond the expected, layering fierce screams and haunting howls into his repertoire. His voice on the closing track is especially resplendent.

Nowhere on the album does everything come together better than “Arising.” Dekker lays down a gnarly punk beat with Cobbett and Sheie thrashing away like it is 1983 and Scheidt howling with utter conviction. Cobbett’s solos sound much like his work with Hammers of Misfortune during the extended jam section of the track. It’s the least blackened of the tracks but it’s also the most cohesive, displaying the chemistry of VHOL with undeniable clarity. It’s feral. It’s belligerent. It’s beautiful.

Vhol is a most satisfying coalescence of four inarguable talents into an entity that feels stripped down to the primal level yet is far more expansive than it appears. Craft beer may sour as it ages beyond a certain point but this is not the case with Vhol. It’s more like wine, getting better as time wears on, each taste surpassing the last. One can only hope that this isn’t a limited edition and VHOL have only just begun.

(released April 16, 2013 on Profound Lore Records)

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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