Vhöl - Deeper Than Sky - (9/10)
Published on October 5, 2015
A side project with plenty of its own merit
The term “supergroup” gets tossed around quite a bit. Whether it be metal or not, it seems to be all the rage to have musicians team up to make one project, which sadly can lead to some less than wonderful results. However, Vhöl is not such a group. Comprised of members of Yob, Ex-Ludicra, Agalloch and Hammers Of Misfortune, the black metal/ speed/crust act has already made some waves off their prior self-titled release in 2013. Two years later, Deeper Than Sky, their follow up record promises to make sure anyone who missed out last time will be all ears this time around.
The elements from the last release are still alive in the Vhöl world. The fast paced, speed metal influence is clear, along with some good hardcore/crust parts, but plenty of traditional metal shining through as well. Despite the member’s current main bands, Vhöl is not like those as far as sound. The guitars are brighter in most cases and the drumming has some of Aesop’s best work (as big a claim as that is), with a non-stop barrage throughout the fairly brief run-time. The rhythm guitar is catchy as hell and has some very thoughtful riffs, where the lead guitar has plenty of chance to shine but never overpowers anything either. Mike’s vocals are in top form, as his higher wails and falsetto are the perfect juxtaposition to his deeper grunts and barks. It is quite possibly the most varied performance of the man’s career and one of the best yet.
The album is not entirely full of meaty and speedy riffs though, as there are a few slower sections, and some more atonal and “out-of-left-field” bits here and there. The title track slows down the pace for some time and chooses to really get a little psych on the listener, which also allows for one of he more prominent bass sounds of the release, creating some very good low end and combined with the higher noises quite well. The elongated section of this track ends up really doing justice to the tripped-out artwork on the album and the idea behind a title such as Deeper Than Sky. The follow up track, “Piano” is exactly that, and then some. The all too brief track is very experimental in comparison to the remainder of the record and the technicality of the playing on the song is second to none among these somgs. The rest of the album’s three pieces follow a similar formula to the first couple tracks, but the entirety of Sky comes together wonderfully to create an intense and impressive listen.
When these four individuals came together in 2012 to record their debut, no one knew what to expect. In 2015, they are now taking any of our ideas of the band and crushing them by expanding their sound even more and putting together one of the better records of the year. With plenty of melody, but a ton of heaviness and controlled chaos, Deeper Than Sky shows these musicians have plenty up their sleeves and are not resting on any recognition they have gotten from prior success. They are challenging us and themselves to great results.