Just extreme enough
Though VLTIMAS possess an extraordinary curriculum vitae even by “supergroup” standards—guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen served nearly 15 years in post-De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Mayhem, plus a couple decades and counting in Aura Noir; Flo Mounier is the sole remaining original member of revolutionary tech-death masters Cryptopsy—all eyes will doubtless be on the group’s legendary bassist/vocalist David Vincent, who famously transitioned from death metal to outlaw country in the wake of the much-derided Illud Divinum Insanus (2011), the only album born of his second tenure fronting Morbid Angel (2004-’15). Recently, Vincent took baby steps back into the maze of torment via I Am Morbid, performing sets overwhelmingly culled from his first tenure fronting Morbid Angel (1986-’96). This, combined with the announcement of VLTIMAS, naturally raised hopes of a restoration. As Illud ably demonstrated, however, past performance does not guarantee future returns.
Happily, the time away and return to roots appear to have recentered Vincent. Something Wicked Marches In is a vital and unapologetic—if decidedly modern—death metal record delightfully devoid of the angsty, conspicuous mid-career wing-stretching that presumably led to Illud’s more adventurous/questionable moments. That said, the songs bear only occasional, superficial resemblance to Mounier and Eriksen’s previous work, never mind the first four Morbid Angel records. Musically, think an amalgamation of Apostasy/Evangelion-era Behemoth and the more traditional Illud tracks—“Existo Vulgoré,” “Blades for Baal,” “Nevermore”—drowned out by the furor over hippity-hop lyrics and shoehorned electronica. Vocally, the vibe is definitely closer to Sinister Ringmaster Evil D than “Rapture” growler, which is perhaps more fitting than it sounds, and also easily Vincent’s sharpest, most focused attack since 1995’s Domination. Overall, Something Wicked is a trio of seminal extreme music figures kicking out the smart, intricate, immaculately executed death metal jams, which, if not quite groundbreaking, nevertheless subverts expectations in the best possible way.