Vortex - Them Witches - (6/10)
Published on October 2, 2019
Vortex are a Dutch heavy metal band with an all-too-familiar story. Having formed in the late seventies, they sputtered through a number of small releases before releasing an LP in 1986 which was – even by the high standards set by the Golden Age of heavy metal – quite a solid release. But like a lot of bands, there was no follow-up album and a few years later they disbanded. But Open the Gate was a strong enough album that following it up would no doubt have come with some difficulty so they ended their decade-long career on a high note.
However, the band reformed after the turn of the century and ended up back in the full swing of things, recording another four albums before releasing Them Witches in 2019, their sixth and most recent album. Though it bears little resemblance to their eighties efforts, it is still an interesting link to their eighties past. Sure, Vortex may have polished their tone a bit, but they have not strayed from the tried and true formula for traditional heavy metal. It’s quite refreshing to hear classic-styled riffs on late-era albums, and I especially enjoy the efforts of older bands to keep a more standard approach in mixing the band’s instruments. Too often, excessive gain on the rhythm guitars drowns out the rest of the band, keeping the bass obscured in a cloud of noise. But there is a striking balance here, allowing the bass lines to take their place in the mix without standing out too much.
But there really isn’t much more that I can say here. The galloping riffs of the title track are somewhat interesting, but even with all the other positives mentioned earlier, most of this album completely fell flat to me. Individually, the band members are more than competent. The vocal lines are delivered on pitch. The lead guitarist can tear up the fretboard with all the speed and precision you could ask for. Indeed, even as a band, they play tightly together. It’s just that the final product is almost completely devoid of anything that draws me into listen more.
If I had to pin down a reason for this, it’s probably that the song construction as a whole as well as the riffs themselves are just so basic. There are no daring turnovers or changes. There’s nothing to make me cock my head to one direction to get a closer listen. It’s just ten songs thrown together on an album with no down points or highlights, and so they all just kind of run together in my mind. And this is even more of a problem when you have multiple songs that are six minutes or longer – why make such long songs when the composition is so simple and unengaging? I probably wouldn’t have minded nearly as much if the album were half as long. As such, it’s fifty minutes of mediocrity.
To be fair to the band, there’s nothing bad going on here by any stretch of the imagination. Everything here is executed well enough. But I’m serious when I say that I couldn’t name a single song that really did anything for me.