Hailing from nearby Larksville, PA, VULTUREPEAK have dispensed a collection of music that leaves a listener with a feeling similar to surviving an attack from a wild beast: the band has clearly been paying attention to the elements of black metal, hardcore punk, and the noisy love babies of these genres, taking notes and pointers. Drummer Jeff Hartley and guitarist/vocalist Rob Holodick may as well have thrown a Discharge record and a Darkthrone record into a cauldron with some broken-open batteries and stirred it around. Truth is, VULTUREPEAK isn’t the first band to attempt this sound or feel, but they impressively pull it off without a hitch, denoting an attention to detail and a deftly-executed goal in craft from the beginning of the album all the way through to its end. The results are startlingly emotional and thoroughly satisfying.
First of all, this is only the latest installment from a project that’s been building momentum since 2012 (though Hartley & Holodick are reported to have been playing together for over a decade). In that time, they’ve explored a swathe of sonic territory and refined their craft, using each release to further contextualize what VULTUREPEAK is about and what it’s capable of. Upon diving into their backlog, I was surprised to find that their release prior to “Snake Body“, “Wrapped In Tar“, was an utterly inscrutable departure of harsh noise and atmosphere-weaving. It was an unyielding, oppressive album, and I left it wondering how its creation could have affected the band’s creation of Snake Body in some way.
The album kicks off with a thesis of what’s to come in “Wraith”, which jolts the listener awake with squealing guitar feedback and follows with shrieks that would suit any contemporary screamo band. In the vane of such bands like See You, Space Cowboy and early black metal bands alike, VULTUREPEAK throw repetitive, sharp-sounding chord progressions back to back, giving listeners just enough to latch onto before diving into the next. While VULTUREPEAK leans towards the latter in song length— wherein songs float somewhere between two and a half to five minutes— they cover a lot of ground. “Wraith” is the shortest song on the album, but it prepares us for what lies ahead. The mission statement: leave listeners devastated. “Bliss Trap” jumps to life with a lead that draws clear through-lines back to the coldest Scandinavian black metal fare, featuring vocals that jump between raspy shouts that evoke early Rise Against (this guy could easily impersonate Timothy McIlrath if he wanted) and desperate, throat-ripping screeches. The drumming throughout is frantic, as though it’s trying to keep after the runaway train that is the rest of the music. “Trench Weight” sounds like its namesake, burying listeners in the wet concrete of VULTUREPEAK’s tight playing before shaking them dry with buzzy tremolo picking and a face-flattening finale.
The only place where the production is a little bothersome is on “The Strain”, where the stereo spread leaves the main guitar refrain sounding truncated, but the filled-out sound of things after keeps in line with the rest of the album. It should also be noted that this song gives way to melodics which pick the listener up and brush them off at essentially the center point of the listening experience. “Pariah” drops people back into something of a thrash-influenced composition, both technical and crushingly heavy. They clearly pull from death metal like the certified greats Entombed and Bolt Thrower, both of whom were instrumental in infusing the genre’s meticulous riffing with dynamically heavy production. The piece follows out in a wash of thorny noise.
“WRAPPED IN TAR is the harsh foundation that SNAKE BODY boiled out of”, states a post made by the band roughly a week before the latter’s release, almost as a prescient affirmation ahead of these thoughts. In a sense, it seems like a scorched-earth approach to writing new music: tearing everything you are down to the throbbing underworks, allowing whatever you do next to filter through the latest, most developed stage of your identity. Even without this insight, it feels as though “Snake Body” is VULTUREPEAK at their most honest. Above all else, they know what they’re trying to achieve from the creative process, what will be the most accurate representation of their goal, striving for nothing less than an expression free of compromise.
By the time we reach the finale, we’ve been seen the full breadth of sonic desolation. The closing track’s title, “This Was Meant To Hurt” is a tell-tale statement of intent. The band certainly achieved this, forcing their raw blend into ear canals abound, and the final track seems to be their call to whatever lays above this earthly plane for any possible redemption from the depths which their album basks in. Things slow down to an isolated drum outro, chugging along into the fade with about as much certainty as any of us have walking out of the house in the morning.
The band gives no signs of slowing down in their music or in their conduct: since their first two albums at the beginning of the year, the band has dropped a new single hinting at what’s to come. If “Snake Body” is anything, it’s an affirmation that the band is ready to show what they’re made of to any willing listener. While it can be assuredly said that this is by no means music for the whole family, it can also be said that you will probably get a lot out of this album if you enjoy the likes of Cult Leader, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Cursed, Converge, and even Philadelphian hardcore hypesters Jesus Piece. In this way, the band sounds a lot like its influences, and whatever happens next will hopefully show us even more of what VULTUREPEAK is as VULTUREPEAK. Not the worst thing in the world, though, since VULTUREPEAK ultimately do these audiences a service as they twist the trappings of metal and hardcore very capably into an amalgam that is not to be overlooked. Here’s hoping they get the well-deserved attention.
- Competently blends elements of death metal, black metal and hardcore punk into an enjoyably noisy experience
- Flexible songwriting which keeps you guessing
- The run time is not too ambitious and the songs don’t overstay their welcome
- The band may not stick to one aesthetic choice long enough to explore it to its fullest potential
- The production style is not suited to every endeavor they try to take on in the album
- The breadth of ideas explored leaves a lot of questions for where the band can go
- Perhaps a little derivative, wears its influences very openly on its sleeve