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Vastum: Hole Below

Death metallers take a primitive route to the pineal gland

Unlike most of their crepuscular contemporaries, Vastum’s death metal principles revolve around writing riffs that’ll pound your skull to soot instead of primarily focusing on summoning an aura of iniquity.

Interestingly, by simply crafting some of the most atavistic death metal around, where flashy technique is eschewed for Bolt Thrower-esque brute force, the Bay Area band still manages to invoke an atmosphere akin to a sulphuric bellow from the abyss.

Third album Hole Below displays few stylistic developments beyond greater compositional dynamics, more impactful tempo shifts and guitarist/vocalist Leila Abdul-Rauf’s improved solos. But Vastum’s refusal to evolve further is not a creative inadequacy: they have been cautious to preserve aesthetic cohesion across their influences, production, artwork and lyrical themes.

The latter is the responsibility of vocalist Daniel Butler. From Sodomitic Malevolence to Empty Breast, the eloquence of Butler’s psychosexual tales read like a meeting of the (deviant) minds of Vladimir Nabokov and Lord Worm, which adds an evocative layer of warped eroticism to the music’s bone-smashing savagery.