VRENTH – Succumb to Chaos (2022)REVIEW

Among the most respectable yet well-forgotten oral traditions yet extant on record the knowledge of one’s hour of death was often a given, a harrowing gift shared among all men which’d balanced harshly with the realities of a determinant judgement day, a living trial at the final moments of life with an extended execution phase in mind. The uncertainty of Death’s calling, the unknown hour, was a gift of mercy bestowed by the ‘Gods’ after long witness of just how cruelly the penalty would hang over the frail. Today when we learn of death in nascence it shouldn’t necessarily read as chaos (an even more complex, personalized definition) by instinct but through experience we learn to accept that our mortality is randomly generated excepting particularly targeted circumstance. Science is not on our side in this regard, the idea that death and chaos would unite in definition is rough considering the well-observed nature of thermodynamics has us too hastily considering a cold, dead nothing as the ‘final’ state of carbon-based matter. Where I see chaos and Death aligning most clearly is obvious enough, though, as we consider the process of putrefaction which may or may not involve the glorious parasitic feasting of insects and bacterium. As we succumb, accept and carry with us the notion that the inevitable may very well strike upon us as a fiery lightning bolt (into fleshy, worm-ridden globs) at any given moment we nonetheless find no remedy for the inevitable feelings of finitude, a purposelessness upheld in any reality-based rationalization. These are warranted sensations and they should be relished, as the path to this point of sentience is rarely so honest, or allowed to be felt within the gears of the shit-spraying and poisoned apparatus of society. Away from the world, in bunkers and darkness southern California-based ‘old school’ death metal quintet Vrenth persist in their imaginative strain of nihil and morbid philosophic obsession with this phenomenon of finitude and rot, now landing their latest grotesquely lucid observations for the sake of this second full-length album within just a few years. ‘Succumb to Chaos‘ appears to marvel at disintegration and celebrate the mayhem which feeds death alike as the wailing and riff-wielding crew extend their elite oeuvre unto an impossible standard of morose death metal craft.

Formed in southern California (likely northeast of Los Angeles or nearby) at some undisclosed time before 2019 between former members of Gravehill whom are current/key members of Ruin alongside in-demand drummer Charlie Koryn (VoidCeremony, Ascended Dead, ex-Ghoulgotha) the approach taken by these collective fellowes would naturally gravitate towards a potent, darkest form of ‘old school’ influenced death metal. What’d surprised most folks from the get-go was that there’d be no naïve demo tape or half-formed idea in mind but a promotional demo (‘Demo #1‘, 2019) which sported a fully formed and functioning pure death metal sound, uninterrupted by amateurism or unsure directionality. Though we could naturally point to groups like Imprecation, Funebrarum and perhaps Disma for some precedence of tonality and aggression Vrenth certainly weren’t the usual fare, for the sake of their decidedly different sound than the raw and coldest murder of Ruin and a strong linkage made between unflinching ‘old school’ death metal lineage and modern day interpretations of it. The intensely guttural edge of vocalist N.M. and an beautifully rounded full listen in terms of riffcraft and composition had me naming their debut full-length (‘Baptism Death‘, 2020) as one of the best of December that year but unfortunately I didn’t allot enough time to cover it during the final month of the year. With this in mind I’d chosen to pay extra attention to ‘Succumb to Chaos’ and, to nobody’s surprise it is an even bigger and better release than the first, meeting and sustaining the highest standard throughout.

That previous album was great by most accounts, an immense presence and a real guitar album in terms of generating both rhythm guitar interest throughout while also paying close attention to their use of lead guitars to stylize and energize songs in a way which is unique nowadays but commonplace in the early 90’s. A couple years ago, and arguably still in hindsight, it’d been an underrated record so, the question is whether or not Vrenth‘s approach has held up, changed drastically, or just simply improved. My vote is for improved across the board as the production values have sharpened, the lower end has gained slightly more definition and the performances end up kinda wheeling off the charts with true heavy metal insight. What exactly does that mean, in practical terms? Man, this record smokes at both ends thanks to the intense work done between the lead guitarists, the vocalist, and rhythm machine within.

The riffs and the cauldron of gore-puked and throat collapsing reverberation are up first as opener “Omnipresence (Mors Certa/Hora Incerta)” provides the big grooves, clobbered-at rhythms and tension grinding push which we’d expect from these guys but at the ~2:36 minute mark Vrenth basically shot up to free grave plot on my end of the year list with what is well, just a damned death metal solo that precedes a brutal blast and shred fest out of the moment. Right, I dunno if I was clear enough that the lead guitars on this album are like Discarnate or early Brutality-level hailing down hellfire kill-fingering good as if they’d spent the last two years trading off solos competitively ’til the skill level became ridiculous, but still fitting for the style. This alone would be enough to harp on about as an opener but the big deal with ‘Succumb to Chaos’ is that the keep pushing it, divebombing and all that ’til the job is done.

Whereas a record like ‘Screams of Anguish‘ appeared to pull from the more explosive side of scribbling and eruptive mid-to-late 80’s thrash metal as their guideline for insertion of lead guitars Vrenth‘s guitarists appear to have pushed this thought into an even more classic lesson in heavy metal soloing, often touching upon the Denner/La Rocque side of things albeit without trading off as deliberately. Of course there is more to it than that, since we begin to hit upon thrash/heavy metal riffing as the album presses on (see: “An Eternal Impious War” b/w “Contemptus Mundi”) and even hit upon a few Demigod-esque moments (title track) in the process… The point to be made here is that the lead guitar performances herein are tailored to the listening experience and fit quite well with the many turns the band take within this album. I’d been impressed to no end that throughout the full listen there’d been no casual resorting to the usual burn, bend and wobble typically borrowed from the ’86-’93 canon. This show of skill also lines up with what I’d experience as an intensifying ‘pocket’ of songcraft/arrangement in the second half of the LP wherein the title track (“Succumb to Chaos”) makes its apex death/doom metal lunge and for the sake of picking the energy back up we’re served two of the most aggressive, memorable pieces Vrenth have come up with to date. This’d had me looking forward to every spin, feeling the centrifugal force intensify as the album dug deeper into its last third.

No filler, no throwaways, no bullshit, no trendy nonsense — Vrenth make a very clear statement here that they ain’t up for playing stupid, that they’re absolutely capable of outclassing the general United States population of ‘old school’ influenced death metal acts in terms of personalized yet authentic craft and they’ve done so without any pomp or too obvious ego. It might sound trite but ‘Succumb to Chaos‘ had me sitting there drooling like a goddamned zombie blown away at this very old, rotten sensation of being hit with actual peak era of United States death metal while sustaining a personae of their own, and a formidable one at that. This only adds to the curious station of their gig, I mean this notion that the elegant and the honestly pretty sophisticated (by today’s standards) machinations of a crew like this can yet feel gored-out, clogged with filth and atmospherically urgent without losing track of their precise execution is beyond stunning, definitely a ‘shut the fuck up and listen intently’ situation in terms of being held captive by this record on my part. I suppose what I’ve identified in the long run is the intangible difference between mastery and ambition, the separation felt between proper realism and dreaming out loud worship. In this sense we are forced to stare right into the sockets of the skull, feel the trance beyond the first inhale, and accept the carnage upon the classicist death metal realm these folks have achieved here on a record from a band most would consider a side project. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (89/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Succumb to Chaos
LABEL(S):Rotted Life Records
RELEASE DATE:September 9th, 2022

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