Since their meeting in Toronto in 2014, the past six years have been a fertile period of outspoken personal, political and musical evolution for experimental sludge duo Vile Creature. The self-identified ‘angry, queer, gloom cult’ are outspoken champions of LGBTQ+ and animal rights. Drummer/vocalist Vic (they/them) and guitarist/vocalist KW (he/they) have used their previous two records to tackle their experiences of trauma, suffering and poisonous negativity on 2015’s A Steady Descent Into The Soil and 2018’s Cast Of Static And Smoke – an ambitious concept album detailing five cyborgs’ struggles with self-perception. The stark, arresting nature of its vitriolic rage and sludge metal bloodletting was so ponderous it was difficult to wade through. Alongside these first, rough-hewn forays the duo went into business with a popular vegan food truck and in 2016 got married in celebration of what has become a most fruitful union.
Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! sees the band consolidate all of their experiences both positive and negative and regurgitate them in their most cohesive and daresay accessible offering to date. Accessible is, of course, a relative term when talking about the iron-hard, pulsating doom and feral vocals within, but what’s clear from the outset is how much effort they’ve invested in crafting engaging song structures, the band losing nothing in intensity while gaining leaps and bounds in musicality.
For someone who learned to play drums only when they met their bandmate, Vic’s performance alone makes the record noteworthy, not least in the pulse-pound percussive obliteration dealt out on You Who Has Never Slept. These are easily the band’s biggest hooks to date, amplified by the sheer sincerity of their vocal savagery; when they scream ‘Tell me who I am’, amidst the glowering storm of opener Harbinger Of Nothing, you feel the lived experience in every single syllable.
Consternation is rife on When The Path Is Unclear, its downbeat atonality offset with pulsating ire. The record closes with two tracks more sonically ambitious than anything the band have ever attempted before, giving the impression that everything that came before was building up to this moment. Glory, Glory! begins in quietude with the voices of Minuscule, a 13-strong female choir lead by Canadian composer Laurel Minnes, haunting in their emotive power as KW’s guitar idly strums. Distinct for its utter lack of asphyxiating doom, it bleeds gradually into Apathy Took Helm! on a wave of organ, its mellifluous foundations rapidly laid to waste with climactic riffing ably assisted by UK sludge duo Bismuth’s bassist Tanya Byrne and Minuscule’s vocal cascade.
Vile Creature vie with past negative experiences while refusing to be dominated by them, reflecting them instead through a sardonic sense of humorous wrath, seeking and finding positivity in music so often associated with nihilism. They confront issues of gender, discrimination and self-identity in a manner that gives modern metal a progressive, transgressive edge it too often sorely lacks these days. It heralds the emergence of a vibrantly diverse, experimentally fertile metal underground full of voices and perspectives demanding to be heard.