This self-titled debut from Sweden’s Vampire was released on March 3rd in Europe and will be released here in North America on March 18th. And, boy, is it one to get excited about. I don’t think I’ve found a death metal debut this invigorating and engaging since Skeletonwitch first hit the scene and took the metal world by storm. I suppose it’s not surprising, then, that Skeletonwitch is the band I’d most compare Vampire to, as both bands blend elements of thrash and black metal with what’s largely a death metal sound.
In addition to reminding me of the above-above mentioned Skeletonwitch, who are one of my all-time favorite death metal outfits, Vampire also remind me of the darker side of late ’80’s thrash, like early Slayer and Testament. Definitely the darker side of thrash, but thrash nevertheless and it’s a huge compliment –especially coming from me — to be compared to late ’80’s thrash, which is my favorite era of thrash by far. I also hear shades of Mercyful Fate in Vampire.
So, just how dark are Vampire? Well, as I said above, they’re from Sweden, which is arguably the death metal capital of the world, known for some of the world’s darkest of death metal and black metal, and they definitely live up to the brutal standards set by their peers there. Another reason you should believe this band is hardcore about what they do? Check out the names the guys go by: Hand of Doom (vocals), Black String (guitars), Command (bass) and Ratwing (drums). I should think you wouldn’t give yourselves names like that unless you were dead serious about your commitment to death metal. And check out some of their song titles: “Howl From the Coffin,” “At Midnight I’ll Possess Your Corpse,” “The Bestial Abyss,” and “Under The Grudge.” Again, dead serious.
Most of Vampire’s songs have a horror element about them. You’d swear they were channeling demons during some of them. But it’s hard to be sure what Hand of Doom is singing about much of the time as there’s quite a bit of distortion applied to his growling vocals and the music often overpowers the vocals in the mix. Which isn’t to say that his vocals aren’t crucial to the band, mind you. On the contrary, it’s his style of growling and the distortion that set the band apart from so many other death metal bands. Also, there’s a keen sense of melody about these songs. Even when Hand of Doom sounds like he’s gargling with shrapnel, the songs are melodious and he growls along to their distinct melodies. Just listen to venom-spewing songs like “The Fen” and “Black Deserts” and you’ll see what I mean. The rhythm section is constantly pummeling the listener while the guitars get under your skin and excite you accordingly, but their refreshingly rich songs manage to do all of this while maintaining a wonderful level of melodic sensibility. Another thing that adds depth to their songs is the occasional use of acoustic guitars and even piano — check out the beginning of “The Fen” for gentle, almost soothing acoustic guitars and the outro of “Under The Grudge” for haunting but beautiful piano. Indeed, it seems as though there’s nothing Vampire can’t do. Check out their bone-crushing debut now so you can be the cool friend who introduces your group to them before one of your friends finds this shiny, blackened gem of an album and beats you to the punch.