Album Review: VADER - Solitude in Madness
Album: Solitude in Madness
Genre: Death Metal
Review by Brady Irwin
As metal grows more exploratory and verbose in its compositional fluency, with the long-winded forays into all sorts of genres, themes and aesthetics comes proportionally flowery and verbose language. Us writers are the worst for it.
Well, if you’re tired of hearing both bands and journalists wax lofty and lyrical, I’ve got 50% of a solution for you and it comes in the form of death metal mainstays Vader’s latest blinding opus, Solitude in Madness.
If you know Vader, you know the score, and what you’ve come to expect is exactly what you’ll receive on this record – a blinding, frenetic melding of furious thrash and classic death metal served with the biggest of proverbial-eating grins.
We’ll try to leave the hyperbole and wishy-washy superlatives at the door, but also forgive us for being as rabidly excited in our delivery of words as this band evidently is with their death metal, almost four decades into the game.
‘Shock and Awe’ kicks off with not one seconds’ hesitation, immediately launching into that trademark salvo of machine-gun blasts from snare-wall James Strewart , Piotr Wiwczareks’ gruff, almost sarcastic venomous growls, his and Marek Pajak’s relentless fretboard and lead wailing, and Tomasz Halicki’s pinpoint accuracy bass blitzkrieg. Dive-bombing mid-way into an epically virtuoso solo, the riffs otherwise twist and swirl at an unstoppable pace. An undeniably furious blasting opener that wastes no time with pretence, and so neither shall we.
Beginning immediately thereafter with a bludgeoning wall of power chords, ‘Into Oblivion ‘weaves the relentless battering with stompier, militaristic stop-start tempos before descending back into frantic whirls of blasting, leads and tremolo. With less fanfare than even the short opener, this one has you whipped and beaten before you’ve registered that the first flog has landed. Done. Over. Thanks for the bashing. No, really, thank you.
With just a couple of seconds’ repose, the small silence between tracks is almost akin to the horror movie victim we’re all screaming at off-screen to stay under cover, popping their head just slightly above cover– and that’s when ‘Despair’ launches a horrific barrel of thrashing ammo at face-tearing speed. Going full-pelt death-thrash and gnarling the phrase ‘No God/Not Here/No God/No More!’ towards the end, it’d be kitsch from literally any band other than Vader. Wait – that’s it?! Oh. A mere minute and twenty seconds passes in furious breakneck territory and boom, done.
By now, top-down cognitive processing has us formulating the usual stereotype of there being a mid-tempo plodding number in there by this point. Surely. It’s death metal. They’re not young. Surely, right?!
Well, ‘Incineration of the Gods’ starts at what could be considered mid-tempo for the band. For anyone else, it’s furious d-beat and double-kick over lightning-storm palm muting and shrieks aplenty, a barrage of riffs that will cause Slayer and Mindsnare fans to unconsciously start smashing things around their isolation-space in hapless thrash-fiend reflex. Delicious upbeat and flashy soloing towards a final breakneck section definitely tear up any scripted assumptions of this being the requisite slow plodder most death metal bands throw in there somewhere.
This album is fast. Considering all the experimental loopholes and avant-garde nooks and crannies bands in the death metal scene find themselves in these days, with no prior knowledge of the band you could almost be forgiven for assuming them as a grindcore act. It’s okay, they’re not, but we get it, we can see your point.
Right on cue, with a delicious fretboard-bouncing opening riff that conjures up equal parts Nile, Suffocation and Testament, Sanctification Denied is a little more playful around the death-thrash kitchen, albeit still banging ten sets of spoons on twenty saucepans. A brief solo with more bombs than the Us Air Force quickly snaps off into a deliciously upfront breakdown riff – slow by their standards, but still neck-snapping to most mere mortals.
It’s clear time has not weathered neither the bands’ unrelenting capacity for speed nor their wellspring of songwriting that sounds as tried-and-true to death metal formula as it is fresh and unequivocally Vader. Check then fun intro of ‘And Satan Wept’ that is as punk rock in its’ pacing as it is an absolute tornado of ungodly tremolo, vocal snarls and sneers, and guitarist shred trade-offs. Plunging midway into a stop-start thrash breakdown that bounces like an assault rifle on burst fire, it’s not long before we’re flung back into relentless blasting towards a very abrupt ending.
There isn’t much to be said about ‘Emptiness’ that doesn’t reflect reverberated prior commentary on the speediness and death-metal-ness of the album so far, although we are treated to an almost atmospheric segue somewhere in the track’s battering, with reverberated vocals and a descending chord progression that almost slightly pretends to be the band slowing down, then – nope. Finger pulled.
By now, little pranks like that do seldom to throw us off track, as we know it’s inevitable the band will return to it’s monolithic ferocity, right hands just itching just bring fretted instrument back into tremolo and palm-mute lock-step, which of course they do in ‘Final Declaration’. A track with thrashing chug-heavy sections between the chaos so catchy, they were impossible not to have at least both legs and an arm tapping haplessly. Ergo, one of many songs that will spell nothing short of complete and utter murder in the pit, once the band expertly lays this gun-salvo of riffs on us again in a live sense. Oh please. Please, be soon.
‘Dancing in the Slaughterhouse’, whilst sounding like an 80s romcom about a serial killer, starts much less unassumingly with a ‘slow’ riff (you know by now we mean fast, just not Vader-fast, right?!), then a hypertensive, giddy mix of punk gang shouts and breakneck speed. Widdly, histrionic soloing over frantic thrash riffs and the deep bellows of ‘See you in Hell!’ before a cackling maniacal laugh rings the track out. This is classic death metal transported to 2020 and yet, so fresh and energised that you can still smell the waft of iron from the freshly spilt blood.
Ten songs in and things only get faster. What? You heard me. Faster! Like a PCP-addled psychopath that refuses to go down from a hail of cop bullets, the high-octane whirl of ‘Stigma of Divinity’ sees the band refusing to back with time, both within the context of this individual album and indeed their careers. It’s a fantastically tumultuous track, uncontrollably fast yet effortlessly executed, seething both the bands’ veterancy and unrelenting sense of malevolent urgency. There is no tiredness in this song, this band, or this album. Not one dollar’s worth of rage has been deducted from the account, and like the listener, they’re just accruing interest.
Alas, we come to my only criticism of the album, which is the fact it ends at all. A preference would be twenty-four-hour streaming of these delightfully evil and undeniably metal riffs but alas, we are unfortunately only human. ‘Bones’ gives a half-hearted attempt at more of a plodding, mid-tempo pace, but in doing so still sounds more alive and energised than most bands their age. Being completely unable to resist, things kick back off into forced-march, a hook-laden and fast death-thrash stomp across your speakers which gives a very Aura Noir styled rocking blackened impression, the vocal refrain of ‘Ashes, ashes and dust!’, one single mournful lead and that’s it. Done.
No two-minute electronic ambient intro, no stereotypical mid-section lurching number, no gargantuan end track to outstay its welcome with acoustic and symphonic fluff. If you’re kicking for a death metal fix that is weaponised old-school, to the point, brilliantly crafted and totally its’ own thing, inject this directly into your ears via your nearest speaker at top volume and bask in true death metal veterancy, potent and pure. ‘Solitude and Madness’, a hyper-speed album of pure unadulterated death metal from one of the greats. Enough said.
Solitude In Madness is available May 1st via Nuclear Blast Records.