Album Review: Black Vice - The Alchemist's Vision

Artist: Black Vice Album: The Alchemist’s Vision Genre: Black Metal Review by Alex Logan Austin, Texas – a place known for its versatile live music scene focusing on country, blues and rock. A conservative lifestyle that projects comfortability in arms, a sense of national identity and a feeling of peace in middle America. For the last few years, a rumbling has emerged from the central rural parts of the nation, in which black metal has come out from the shadows into the musical foray. Led by the recent emergence of Colorado-based outfit Wayfarer and Minnesota six-piece False, these bands that once had no reasonable prospect to unleash their dark hymns more prominently are starting to see doors opening like never before.

Of course that all depends on the music. Of course that all depends on which side of the divide they are on. And of course, Black Vice have prepared accordingly. Formed in 2013, Black Vice arrived on the scene with 2016's Rituals of the Anti-Cosmic Doctrine, which appealed to fans of pure and unrefined raw black metal. While showing glimpses of personalisation and identity, it lacked the full prowess to make the impact on the local scene it intended. After settling on various member and responsibility changes, The Alchemist’s Vision seizes the chance to engage the listener to a depth not previously unearthed by the band. Despite a 34 minute running time, the subtle yet incredible work of Theia Mania cannot be underestimated as he executes insightful and intelligent string songwriting with ambition and sincere character. Complemented by an impressive vocal range and performance by Vultuur, the cohesion developed between all five members is evident - as melodic string flicks, brilliantly timed percussion rapidity and indifferent tempo all play vital roles.

Kicking off with auspicious opener ‘Ontogenesis’, the catchy mid-tempo outlay gets this writer headbanging without notice. Formulated riffs ring elegantly and vocals hauntingly echo like a deluge of dripping wet. This base recipe provides a strong sense of intention as the song disseminates in a delicate fashion. Attention is key in the underground – distractions show an audible weakness. ‘Emergence’ sets free an inundation of dark-groove riffs, ascending into a drum driven coda floated with sharp string work. Pockets of slow passages build up the impressive howling vocal peak - all while accompanied by an authentic and contextual melodic undertone, best described as ‘creatively supreme’. The live raw vocals, sensible riff placement along with the Akitsa-like drumming thud makes ‘Visions’ the standout track on the album. A raw, icy beginning crescendos into a vitriol of blackened dictation. Succinct in every manner, the placement of indirect melodic grazes elevate the wholesomeness of the tune immensely. Each listen melts the elements delectably together, showcasing the hereditary mould at the core of the band at its peak. Watch out as this may be stuck on repeat.

The previous hard work of building on the solid base is slightly undone, with ‘Creation’ a failed attempt at a connectable interlude. Best described as a cosmic instrumental, it’s hard to construe the sound as part of the intended vision. Heading back on track and resuscitating the momentum, ‘Attainment’ revives the identity building of the first three tracks by relishing in razor edge noise. Featuring the best drum/string duet on the album, melodic drifts once again package the song writing strongly together. Mid-tempo loops allow for breathing space – very neat positioning after the strong double kick groove and leather bashing.

Tradition is the hallmarks of an ode and ‘Salvation’ delivers a trip down memory lane, with an eerie 1990’s demonism that would clear the main streets of Austin quickly - despite being aided throughout by a stingingly sharp but dreamy tone. Featuring more atmosphere than its preceding hymns, the dry raw sound carrying the excellent howling weep is cushioned by the exceptional bridge that breaks out into a traditional double kick driven onslaught. Despite not the fitting conclusion, ‘Erasure’ finishes the tale with spatial synth, something emblematic of this genre and providing the calming semblance of finality.

While reinforcing the formula throughout, Black Vice have separated their sound from a packed sea of depravity by utilising enticing string charm to counterpart a robust percussion performance and inducing vocal recital to surpass expectations. Despite both instrumentals not being ideally placed or relatable, the over-arching sense of identity achieved cannot be understated. While Texas is becoming more synonymous with the vision of walls to create the divide, Black Vice’s confirmed identity has secured them on the right side of the divide.

The Alchemist’s Vision is out on Crown and Throne Ltd. on March 27th 2020 Black Vice Bandcamp:

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