Vircolac | ‘Codex Perfida’
Early death metal had a particular intensity about it. Bands played their hearts out to show how much they meant it, because they had to – their credibility depended on it.
Nowadays we know those albums as classics. And it’s not just nowadays – they’ve almost always been regarded that way. So it should surprise noone that musician fans would want to return to that ethos.
That’s what Vircolac are all about, and all credit to them, because they’ve done it the right way.
This isnt a bunch of well known ‘scene characters’ putting out a tape of some perfunctory bangings about because it’s trendy. This is a demo of absolutely superb songs.
Full disclosure, many of you will know the bands guitarist Jamie Grimes from writing here on MI. It hardly colours my judgement because these tracks speak so powerfully for themselves.
Vircolac take their time over things. Rather than rush in all guns blazing, they do what the best bands of the early 90s did. To wit: develop atmosphere and purpose, before unfurling into songs of depth that really go somewhere.
So it starts with an dark, distant drumbeat and piano composition that spells dusk and cobwebs before the first of three varied and impressively layered songs.
‘Confessio’ is a superb opener, wholly confident in its 8 minute length. The absolutely saturdated guitar tone that will lead us through the rest of the release is established, as well as the tremolo picked and crunch riffing style so familiar to fans of ‘Soulside Journey’.
Though that oddball Darkthrone record seems about the best representative of this track, there’s also a discernable nod, in tone and approach, to ‘As The Flower Withers’-era My Dying Bride. At the halfway stage, having got the intial thrash of naked limbs out of the way, it slows to an absolutely crepuscular delivery, augmented by those piano tinkles and some judicious atmospheric sampling.
‘The Worm Turns’ is perhaps the most interesting of these three tracks, relying on what I suspect is the more prominent influence of Jamie’s Drainland style of composition – dark plucks and uncommon chords. What’s really arresting about it is that it’s got an almost major chordal progression that sort of throws you out of your comfort zone.
All of that is before it gets totally Autopsy in the most reverential of homages.
It’s taken me a while to get used to it, but I’m now even coming to appreciate the elastic, wobbly bass tone that underpins it all. With some really great harmonies close to the close, it raises to a true crescendo.
There is even more variety as the demo’s most frenetic track, the speedy ‘Effigy’ flares up. It’s without doubt their most aggressive, again referencing those times in very earliest My Dying Bride where the band went briefly nuts.
Again, this is a track that builds to a surprisingly grand conclusion for this style – in this instance aided by a nicely done and uber-Morbid Angel flanger.
The band have taken everything authentic about playing deathly, atmospheric metal and just plain gone out and done it, superbly.
It’s funny, becasue in a way I sort of hope they never put out an album. It seems to me they dont need to. If all they ever did was two more exquisite EPs like this they’d have more than fulfilled their purpose of writing fantastically distilled DM.
As with Malthusian, they have one foot in the past and another somewhere sideways than that. I say that because a very close listening of this – and I have listened to it very closely, very many times – reveals some smart, far removed from Death Metal musical mores in here. ‘The Worm Turns’ is clear on that one.
It’s just a fundamentally brilliant set of songs, produced on just the right side of ‘authentic’ and with tons of musical nous.
Like the classics of the past, it is not complicated: just write great songs and mean your music.
Vircolac do, and the results speak for themselves.
4.2 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 11/12/14