I’m going to be completely honest with y’all here, when the latest batch of promos was posted up, I pounced on this the instant I read the name. “Fuck yeah!” I said, “Trance of Death absolutely fucking smashed, they were one of the unsung gems of 2017, I definitely want that one.” I realized pretty quickly that they’d undergone a pretty noticeable shift in sound, with Orificial Purge being much murkier and abstract than their previous album, which was a bit more outwardly destructive. But, to my utter embarrassment, it actually wasn’t until I started writing this review that I actually did some research into the band and realized they didn’t release anything in 2017. Yeah, I got Vastum mixed up with Venenum. Well, there’s half the review you gotta rewrite, moron.
Anyway, Vastum’s upcoming fourth album, Orificial Purge, is quite good. If there’s any real flaw, it’s that I could clock that it was released on 20 Buck Spin within a few seconds of listening. There’s nothing wrong with a label having an identity, but man, you can spot their death metal representatives a mile away. Regardless, even their worst release is still solid, so I knew I was in for a good time and wasn’t disappointed. Like labelmates Tomb Mold, Cerebral Rot, and Fetid, Vastum specializes in a very “brown” sounding death metal. It’s hard to describe without pretentious abstraction, but I hear a band like Vastum, and instead of the vibrant “red” flowing blood and gore of most death metal, I can only think of vile and disgusting infections, greenish “brown” sores and open wounds that have decayed into something resembling three-day-old guacamole. There are more traditionally straightforward moments here and there like the Cannibal Corpse-esque “Abscess Inside Us,” but for the most part, these songs are presented more as a swirling morass of putridity. The riffs and twisted into brutally alien forms and thrown at you four at a time. That’s not to say they come at you rapid-fire, because they really don’t. Vastum spends maybe half the runtime playing at full speed, instead putting a lot of effort into crawling passages that drip with filth in a way that recalls Autopsy’s best work.
One thing that I think stands out with Vastum, and it’s something I noticed way back in 2013 on Patricidal Lust, is that they have a very weird fascination with disgusting “eroticism.” Orificial Purge is no different, hell it’s right in the title. There are references to “wounds” and “orifices” and “knives” being “inside us” and whatnot, and similar to previous tracks like “Hole Below” and “3 A.M. in Agony”, they present the very act of sex in its most shameful and horrifying light. Death metal has been focusing on sexual violence since damn near the dawn of the genre, but Vastum eschews the over-the-top Ed Gein pulp of the classics and instead shines a blacklight over the stained mattress that is the human psyche. Man, even “Incel” from back in 2013 made the act of getting a boner sound like the transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London.
So when you combine these themes of perversion with death metal that sounds like a sewer, you get a recipe for something truly vile, and Orificial Purge delivers on that front. It’s an onslaught of brutality and deep growls that shifts tempo enough and avoids a cliche reliance on blast beats to remain fresh and interesting at all times. It does tend to lack in specifically memorable moments, but the overall atmosphere is so crushing, and the riff salad approach keeps the curveballs coming at an alarming rate. It’s not the total chaos of Incantation exactly, but it’s a lot of things at a lot of speeds, and it all flies by very quickly. You might be catching on by now, but I much prefer shorter albums, and 35 minutes is perfect for this type of thing. A full 50 minutes would’ve dragged by the end and soured the entire experience. The only real flaw is that it doesn’t stand out much in the greater context of the metal zeitgeist right now. I mentioned that rotten horniness is pretty unique to Vastum, but that’s not always immediately apparent if you aren’t paying attention to lyrics. And let’s be real, nobody does with death metal unless they’re giant nerds. Otherwise, it sounds like… well, most other death metal bands on 20 Buck Spin, so if that’s your thing (like it is for me), you’ll like it.
Orificial Purge releases on October 25th, 2019 through 20 Buck Spin and can be preordered and bought through the band’s Bandcamp.