Reviewed: October 2019
Released: 2019, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Death metal rarely surprises these days. It’s often variations on the same themes, with little to distinguish itself from what’s come before. But the full-length debut from Portland, Oregon’s, Vitriol offers one of those rare eye-opening and genuinely jarring death metal experiences.
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, where the epic sprawl of “Cascadian black metal” typifies the region’s extreme music output, Vitriol make waves and melt faces with their atypical and utter relentlessness. There are no wide open, meditative spaces or dramatic mood swings here. Instead, To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice flat out rips, top to bottom – and “rips” is probably an understatement. The totality of band’s musicianship, aggression, audacity and sheer brute force is really quite breath-taking
Vitriol’s music certainly lives up to its, umm, vitriolic name. The grinding, unceasingly brutal, hyper-speed death metal echoes Morbid Angel, Vader, Hate Eternal, Origin, Anaal Nathrakh and, especially, Nile as the tumult is punctuated by the raging back-and-forth vocal tag-team of guitarist Kyle Rasmussen and bassist Adam Roethlisberger – though without the barfy gutturals. And Scott Walker’s blast-beat/double-bass battery rarely ebbs as he sprays drum beats around like so much machine gun fire.
The vast majority of Cowardice is a tangle of churning riffs – as Rasmussen and Roethlisberger flail away and with teeth-clenched abandon – contrasted by occasionally astonishing displays of dexterity. The complexity here – notably in the dizzying tech-death forays of “The Rope Calls You Brother,” “Hive Lungs” or “A Gentle Gift” – is gob-smacking, given the furious pace with which much of the music is delivered. Yet the band remain tight and focused throughout, never venturing off on indulgent flights of fancy.
Still, Vitriol has since recruited another guitarist, Mike Ashton. And it’s easy to see why. Another set of hands is really needed to help capture the full extent of the album’s savagery in a live environment, especially as Rasmussen and Roethlisberger share vocal duties while handling their demanding instrumental duties.
Cowardice follows up the 2017 Pain Will Define Their Death EP, and includes new recordings of all four of its songs “Victim,” “Violence, a Worthy Truth,” “The Parting Of A Neck” and the title track. The updates benefit from a gritter, heftier mix, which only makes the already lethal tunes that much more so. The six fresh songs show the band have only grown more intense and ambitious.
To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice may, too, be a turn on some familiar death metal tropes. But Vitriol’s vehemence and remarkable savvy – given they are relatively new band – help the album rise well above the ordinary and make a genuine statement, all while ripping your face off. Miss this one at your peril.