Much to the dismay of creation itself, the New Zealand black metal outfit Vassafor has returned with a brand new album that is simply overflowing with bleakness. While Vassafor has been active for well over a decade, Malediction marks only the band’s second full length LP. Perhaps there was reason for that; the song structure across the release is predictable and the repetitive nature of the album begins to work against the cryptic atmosphere after too long. On the other hand, Vassafor doesn’t strike me as the type of band that’s looking to keep the listener on the edge of their seat for the duration of the album. Malediction is a frightening collection of blackened riffs, doom-drenched hellscapes, and an omnipresent shroud of occult mystery that remains consistent from the beginning to the end, for better or for worse.
The tempo of the music fluctuates across the entirety of the album, but every change happens very gradually. The opening of “Devourer of a Thousand Worlds” is stomach-churningly slow as it plods along ritualistically, and it’s the perfect introduction to the terror that Vassafor has to offer. The indistinguishable, raspy vocals manifest from out of nowhere, and at no point do they ever shift to the forefront. This has an awesome effect; the already dark soundscape becomes burdened with this unfamiliar and unwelcome presence that makes the overall sound more chaotic and harder to grasp. When the speed increases, the intensity goes through the roof and Vassafor gets that much closer to being an aural representation of entropy. Yet, the riffs tend to be repeated often and are pretty straightforward in their structure, and it’s because of that that I prefer Vassafor’s slower sections. The heaviness gets to really scrape up against you when it’s crawling along at a slower pace. But regardless how fast the whirlwind of blackness that is Malediction is spinning, there’s an undeniable cryptic element pervading the whole damn thing.
The faster sections do, however, provide the best of the drumming. As seen in the last minute or so of “Emergence (Of an Unconquerable One),” the drumming can get incredibly intense. It’s always simple percussion but it really does pull its weight when it gets the chance to do so. That being said, Malediction as a whole is consistent to a fault. The basic formula of the music becomes transparent after a while, and what was once frightening and evil becomes predictable and repetitive. There’s plenty of diversity across the album, at least in certain regards, but the lengthy nature of the songs doesn’t let these changes come fast enough to prevent things from getting a bit tired. Malediction really isn’t intended to be a casual listen, but I’m sure most people could deduce that from the song titles alone. It’s a fantastic record, but the content does not justify the length.