VOIMATON – Profane Vestige (2022)REVIEW

Stacking their deck between the spirit of classicist underground niche tradition and the non-expression of nowadays modern devolutionary traits Chicago, Illinois-based death/doom metal trio Voimaton persist with their distinctly bass cranked and buzzing formation on thier debut full-length. ‘Profane Vestige‘ makes an incredible first impression between the surreal gore-birth of its album art and the psychotic brutality served by its sound design, complex in thought process yet horrifying in expression on both counts. However it all comes together for the average death metal enjoyer in terms of style and substantive vision there’ll be no reasonable qualms raised with the listenable, crystal clear pulverization that this debut album serves upon arrival.

Voimaton formed as a trio around ~2016 with the intent of making death/doom metal shared between folks who’d cut their teeth in the Chicago-adjacent underground extreme metal circles, folks that’d featured in death metal band Narcotic, grindcore group Sewer Rat and avant-technical death band Nucleus‘ current drummer. Their sound was distinctly nuked, hulking from the get-go with a quick three song demo tape (‘Demo‘, 2019) sounding like it’d had three bassists stomping on overdrive pedals trying to get more juice out of ’em the whole way through. When I’d reviewed that initial release it was clear these folks had their minds set on a huge sound, big burly grooves, and a menacing death-doomed pace akin to Cianide, Disma and Funerus. From that point you’ll find very little’d changed on their next two promotional releases starting with a duo of album-worthy songs on a rehearsal (‘Live Rehearsal – 01​/​25​/​2020‘, 2020). Without the chance to test their mettle at live shows that year they’d end up releasing a live recording from late 2019 (‘LiveWire Lounge – Dec 14th, 2019‘, 2020) to more-or-less keep the momentum going and showcase their gig as a capable and well rehearsed live group.

Not as doom obssessed as Cavurn and not as filth-wracked as Fetid and Carcinoid, these folks are clearly aiming for something similarly ugly and primitive but by way of a sound that isn’t so mired in too-clearly established niche or intentional obscurantism. As we sludge on through the largely mid-paced plunging of ‘Profane Vestige‘ it should ring true that Voimaton aren’t purely antisocial artistes or too cool for school hip-shot mush, their loudly hammered and easily read style comes via ‘new old school’ movement but they’re all about creating accessible, groove-heavy rhythms. I dunno if the riffs always live up to the enormity of their sound but this full-length is enough of a step up in precision, performance and aesthetic to justify these folks being taken seriously. Keen enough to recognize their best formative works Voimaton have included some of their best demo/rehearsal writ pieces (“Malebolge”, “Despondent Mass”, “Erudition”) as strong features on this substantial but not overstated debut, more-or-less delivering the expected hi-fi result beyond their already acceptable demo and/or rehearsal versions without any major tuning of their guts. In this sense you’ll get exactly what’d been expected beyond ‘Demo ’19‘ without anything truly imaginative applied to that modus. From my point of view this is a fine way to kick off their deal, give us a memorable sound to start and focus on making good use of it without overdoing anything too referential.

“Scalding Tendrils” is well-chosen as the gear up into the full listen, twisted riffs and jogging downstrokes into tremolo’d transitions make for an easily worn, familiar smelling ‘old school’ death metal skin with brutal yet easygoing pacing. Again, nothing mind-blowing beyond the definition of the bass guitar tone but this is a sound that -should- catch ears well enough between old heads and ‘new old school’ chunkers alike. “Malebolge” and “Despondent Mass” are big highlights on Side A and still two of the best songs Voimaton have written, the tautness of their rhythms and the heavy hint of Finnish death metal influence applied to classic underground USDM basement-level killing leans a bit more early Cianide to start. The big revelation of the album for my own taste comes with the pivotal title track (“Profane Vestige”) once it begins to hit the point of exasperation, a rare sector where sludgy Funerus-esque death lines up doomed meandering and manages something mean and physically drained in its expression. This is notably the sort of thing you’ll hear on records from the aforementioned bands over the years and maybe certain Mythic releases but, sure, there are similar moments on records from Spina Bifida and Sorrow as well although those are a bit less primitive (a la ‘Lost Paradise‘). Voimation are aiming for an easily read spectacle rather than a comparatively complex early 90’s death/doom metal sound but, you get the idea that there is some unusual rhythmic play that begins to define their sound.

The important distinction to make with regard for real-ass extreme doom metal fandom is that this isn’t a nod to the earliest ‘To Mega Therion‘ influenced age of the the sub-genre revisited but a stab at the ‘old school’ death metal inspired grooves of today, Finnish death metal and as we edge into Side B, some of Voimaton‘s own ideation of pronounced doom metal riff feature within those realms. “Succumb” is the piece to make good on this idea as their firing off of an admirable number of sludge/doom attuned riffs in succession and I guess it comes far too late in the track list to land as a defining piece but it was the song that’d made good on the death/doom tag proper beyond album closer “Enshrine Antipathy”, the most ‘Fulfill the Curse‘-era Hooded Menace emboldened groove, with a dissonant twist, on ‘Profane Vestige‘. Throw in “Erudition”, a key piece of Voimaton‘s sound from the get-go and I’d definitely found way more personality and doom alike on the second half of the album.

The balance of forms upheld between the more jogging cudgel-swinging swagger of the first half and the sledged-over second half make ‘Profane Vestige‘ a brilliant full listen if you’re patient enough to let it all play out before making any calls of consistency or riff content. Though I didn’t find much that’d stuck out in mind on the first several listens Voimaton have managed compelling enough sound design and structure, a nasty sort of primitive churn, which avoids sounding amateurish, dumbed-down or quickly phoned in. So, for the sake of a delayed but ultimately positive reaction on my part I’d consider this debut a grower but only up to a certain point, not the apex of modern death/doom yet nonetheless far more listenable than much of what we’ve gotten in recent memory. The right sort of foundation to grow upon at the very least and an easily enjoyed, brutally primal sound which stands out well enough. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (76/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Profane Vestige
LABEL(S):Personal Records
RELEASE DATE:June 10th, 2022

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