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Album Review: Vircolac – The Cursed Travails of the Demeter

There are few guarantees in this life, but one of them is this: if Dark Descent is involved with the release of a album, then it’s probably going to be worth checking out. The latest example is The Cursed Travails of the Demeter, the fantastic debut EP from promising Irish newcomers Vircolac, which DD co-released with German label Sepulchral Voice Records. The band plays death metal that’s steeped in the atmosphere-rich late 80’s/early 90’s death metal tradition, but they’re far from just another OSDM nostalgia act.

There’s not shortage of so-called ‘cavernous’ death metal groups who cut their teeth on bands like Demilich and early Incantation, but too many of them sacrifice songwriting in the name of atmosphere to the point where the individual songs all start to blur together. Fortunately, Vircolac isn’t one of those bands. Killer riffs abound on Cursed Travails, and each of the for tracks has its own distinct feel, from the almost proggy progression of introductory riffs on the title track to the dissonant arpeggios that open “Charonic Journey (Stygian Revelation)” to the blackened riffing of “Lascivious Cruelty.” The real standout, though, is the 9-minute closer “Betwixt the Devil and Witches,” which eschews traditional songwriting structures in favor of something far more labyrinthine, leading to some of the more sinister-sounding musical passages on the entire record.

The literary-minded among us might recognize The Demeter as the name of the fictional Russian ship that brought Dracula to England in Bram Stoker’s famous novel. The eldritch horrors of that novel provide the perfect inspiration for the record’s lyrics, which move beyond the sort of death-and-horror imagery of most death metal into far more poetic territory, and DvL’s growls are both clear enough and high enough in the mix for them to be discernable, which definitely works in the album’s favor

All told, The Cursed Travails of the Demeter is a strong debut, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Vircolac go from here.

The Cursed Travails of the Demeter can be downloaded from Vircolac’s Bandcamp page. In the US, it can be purchased on CD or preordered on vinyl from Dark Descent Records.

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