VIGILANCE – Vigilance (2022)REVIEW

Aiming to carve the mountain of tradition rather than budge it out of place Adelsberg, Slovenia borne heavy metal duo Vigilance raise ever higher their banner of traditional heavy metal on this latest self-titled EP. After having evolved in equally escalating steps over the course of the last dozen years, which saw their sound balancing earliest heavy rock built black metal traditions with the in tandem escape from the seventies paradigm, these fellowes now aim for the best of all previously explored portals as they focus on songcraft and signature beyond stylistic or temporal indications. ‘Vigilance‘ nonetheless resembles the disembodied ghost of the late 70’s and early 80’s evil heavy metal paradigm shift, a sound which is anthemic (theatric, even) as it is dark and always shaking a fist in defiance.

Formed in 2010 and now well-respected with four full-lengths under their belts it’ll be somewhat obvious why it took a while for the greater realm of heavy metal to come around to Vigilance‘s gig once you’ve sat with the full discography. Each record presented essentially the same readable idea to anyone privy to a halfway decent trad metal education but always with a different sort of voice, not only a different vocal attack but a stylistic read which generally wheeled between black/heavy metal and heavy/speed metal dependent on what’d inspired the group at the time. So, in a way you might find some folks who’d missed an album or two suggesting this self-titled EP brings back their classic heavy metal roots (insinuating that they’d gone black/thrash, in some cases) but in truth these are aesthetic notions rather than practical observations, vocalist Gilian Adams simply has a range which can wheel between barks and cleaner NWOBHM influenced melodicism. Consider their sound very much in line with eastern European traditional heavy metal in the early-to-mid 80’s with a touch of Venom in its blood. It’d be fair to say that the last two releases (this one included) have more prominently explored their interest in the origins of the heavy rock performative action, approaching the synergy shared between black metal’s early “first wave” and the very adjacent blurring of lines between late 70’s/early 80’s British heavy metal/heavy rock in the process of evolution.

If you’d enjoyed Vigilance‘s latest full-length (‘Enter the Endless Abyss‘, 2019) which I’d described as: “an 80’s heavy/speed metal album that verges on late 70’s heavy rock topped off with first wave black metal vocals.” there is little doubt you’ll likewise enjoy this pretty damned substantial ~26 minute mLP. This time around we find the band’s songwriters much more concerned with pulling back on the rawness of past releases specifically easing the vocals, leaning into the lead driven hooks of Mercyful Fate‘s earlier records with the NWOBHM influence anthemic quality of past Vigilance records. Though we’re not getting swinging rock pieces a la Turbo‘s ‘Smak ciszy‘ there is a similar sense of transitional time and place on these recordings. Fans of Kat‘s more traditional side of ‘666‘ will immediately appreciate the guitar work and bopping pace of these songs while potentially missing some of the rougher post-‘Welcome to Hell‘ era heavy metal edges Vigilance had featured on past releases. This should suggest we’ve got even more of the pre-’86 Maiden feeling to the rhythms, (again) no longer blackened/raw vocals and this time around and vocalist/guitarist Adam provides the bass guitar work for a less involved feature compared to the two previous recordings. These are not going to read as drastic changes in style to most listeners but I’d found this to be an appreciable enough heel-turn away from repeating what they’d done on the previous album without losing the core appeal of the thread entirely, now featuring decidedly catchier and to-the-point songwriting.

The Slovenian language is alien to me but like most south Slavic languages it lends itself well to the confrontational and sometimes flourish-rich rhythmic phrasing of heavy metal, even if the words amount to little their power is yet readable within these songs of dark magick and mystery thanks to catchy and I’d say charmingly ‘epic’ yet stomped-out heavy metal songs. For my own taste it is and ideal attitude and register for underground traditional heavy metal enough of a guitar edge to thrill and a charming enough presence to hook the ear with big guitar swings and choruses. The first two songs on the mLP build tension in an appreciable way, speedier kickers that lead with Adam‘s notably finessed and gloriously 80’s imbued lead guitar compositions. Folks already familiar with their discography will notice the rhythms are a bit more loose-shouldered, the songs built around momentum as much as they are anthemic chorus and striding rhythms yet the truly stadium-sized stuff doesn’t hit until “Veliki Briljantni Valček” where we get a bit more of the Maiden-enjoyer basslines that’d made ‘Enter the Endless Abyss‘ such a joy a few years ago. The peak of the action on my end is “Arbogastov Plamen” not in the sense that it is wildly different than the previous songs on hand but for the adventurous gait of the leads and the rousing shout-along vocal performances.

Between the first four songs on this album I’d consistently landed in the ideal traditional heavy metal groove — Meaningful use of skillful lead guitars as directive, strong differentiation between pieces, inventive performances built around memorable phrases and all of it built from traditional yet rhythmically characterized songcraft. All of it playing quite well on repeat and catchy enough to stick in my head here and there. Whereas the rest of the record creates a bubble of steady foil to build off of “Orbis Mundi” flips the script just enough to make ‘Vigilance‘ an event and not just an mLP and with the simple gesture of a Rainbow-esque theatric number complete with run-on jammed sections, plenty of keyboard riffs, chorales, and church bells ringing. I get the feeling they were tempted to go even bigger than they did for the piece and as such it sort of cuts off before the idea outstays its welcome, thankfully looping back to the start of the album soon enough to keep the full spin feeling succinct and sharp. Speaking of sharp this might be one of my favorite album covers of the year and it goes a long way towards rounding out the experience as one that counts, the sort of record I absolutely want in my collection. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (79/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Vigilance [EP]
LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 14th, 2022

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