Hole Below by Vastum (purchase HERE) is one of the most genre affirming death metal records of 2015, an ugly, relentless beast that makes you feel uncomfortable but has a presence- let alone riffs-so heavy you will be throwing your whole back into full body headbangs before you know it.
The West Coast band have yet to make a bad record, mining a certain old school territory but with a darkness all their own. More in the true crime then devil worship vein, the band come off like Grave disciples who just wanted to go a lot grimier. There is no technical wizardry here or studio fakery for the Rings of Saturn types to pee over, rather just true, relentless death metal with evil as hell sounding Morbid Angel esque solos (in very limited doses) . Oh, and a BIG tendency towards the slower-mid tempo inescapable marching style of DM. “In Sickness And In Death” is a standout example here, the band capturing the attention fully with 4:59 of pure murder before the even uglier “Intrusions” opening riff smashes down like a nightmare.
The effected vocals and emphasis on function over form is awesome. Like Autopsy since their blessed return the band just seem intent on cranking out quality releases. The production could be more hi-fi to some listeners most likely, but I personally feel like Vastum strike the perfect balance with their sound a little more dirty and underground than many bands. It adds to the sort of “true crime” feels big time. Death Metal doesn’t need to be clean and squeaky and pitch perfect. The best truly heavy stuff I have heard in recent years like Vastum or, for example, the much weirder Orbweaver, are more worried about having cool tones and making you feel unhinged mentally than if the song might someday get played on the radio.
Manny-O-War at Nine Circles has a great review of the lyrical bent of the band that I’ll link you to here, for first time Vastum listeners or anyone interested in reading more.
I should also mention that the band features the super talented Leila Abdul-Rauf from Hammers of Misfortune, forgoing that bands crazy prog metal for true death here but with the same level of commitment to quality. If you pick up just one death metal record this year, well…you are probably lame. Pick up at least seven! But for real, this Vastum record, Castrator or Morgoth’s kick ass Ungod are all albums you don’t want to pass up owning before the year is out. In my always so humble opinion.