originally written by Daniel Martinez
I’ll let the proverbial cat out of the bag, for the zero of you who care: I’m not a big fan of Death Metal. In fact, it is one of my least favored metal sub-genres. There’s very little that attracts me in most typical Death Metal bands (and I’ll refrain from mentioning any of them, as I don’t want to wade through dozens of lash-outs demanding that I apologize for “dissing” any given person’s favorite band). Aside from Psycroptic’s The Scepter of the Ancients, there hasn’t been a single recent Death Metal release that has captured my attention…until now.
Vehemence is primarily a Death Metal band, hailing from Phoenix, Arizona. They’ve quickly made a name for themselves, after releasing their widely acclaimed second album, God Was Created. The band has been labeled “Melodic Brutal Death Metal” by many connoisseurs, and with good reason, as they are brutally punishing yet sufficiently conscious of melody to be considered, well, melodic (har-har!). Helping the World to See is much more brutal than it is melodious, though. The moody melodic elements are still integrated into many of the album’s songs, but they take a backside to the sheer aggression that pervades throughout the record. For those of you who’ve been eagerly anticipating this release (I’ll gladly announce that I’m probably on top of that list), I can almost guarantee you will not be disappointed. It features everything that one could possibly demand from a Death Metal record, and much more. This album is so pleasing that it requires a thorough deconstruction of each song…bare with me, if you like. If you don’t feel like wading through my overly pretentious analysis, feel free to skip the next few gigantic paragraphs and jump straight to the conclusion.
Helping The World to See starts off in an eerie fashion with opening track “By Your Bedside”, which is introduced by some haunting hospital/ER samples. Vehemence waste no time in letting you know that you’re in for an aggressive, potentially deafening assault. This track is characterized by its relentless speed and its groundbreaking subject matter (as far as Death Metal records go), as it deals with the controversial topic of euthanasia. This is a solid track, even though it’s not one of the most particularly memorable moments on Helping the World to See. Next, we have the album’s first single, “Kill For God”. The initial riff does a fine job at creating an aggressive atmosphere. Nathan Gearhart’s visceral growls sound somewhat muddled, yet very raw and rough around the edges. The double bass drumming is particularly noteworthy, as it’s an appropriate display of drummer Andy Shroeder’s phenomenal abilities. The track is appropriately titled, as it deals with the concept of religious fanaticism, specifically suicide bombers. The next song, “Trinity Broadcasting (Know Your Enemy)” is, in my personal (yet correct) opinion, the first highlight of the album. The initial guitar lead took me by surprise, as it’s not what one would expect to hear on a Death Metal record (which is undoubtedly a good thing). This is the first track that truly showcases Vehemence’s guitar duo, Bjorn Dannov and John Chavez. These guys seamlessly exchange leads back and forth, and their work makes this song sound very reminiscent of Iron Maiden. Fret not though, this is still a Death Metal track…and a devastating one at that. The song addresses the theme of blind religious devotion, in the form of a televangelist who brainwashes the masses into buying their way to heaven, so to speak. Religious zealousness is a theme that has been explored to death in metal, but Vehemence bring something new to the table by exploring the subject from this perspective. This is, without a doubt, one of the album’s most pummeling and memorable tracks; it has everything one could possibly want, including a beautiful trade-off solo between both guitarists. If you’re not completely sold by this point in your listening venture, then this album is probably not for you, as this song is one of the most representative tracks of Helping the World to See’s overall sound.
After setting the bar so high with the aforementioned third track, the next song, “To the Taste”, is unsurprisingly disappointing. It’s a song about indulging in one’s addictions or “peculiar” habits. It describes the act of smoking marijuana in a very direct manner. Not only is this track’s subject matter very basic, but the song is also devoid of much personality. Its only noteworthy aspect is the intense drumming, but even that is done much better in subsequent (and previous) tracks. “You Don’t Have to be Afraid Anymore” is yet another highlight, and is perhaps the album’s most haunting moment. Somber piano notes interlace with doom-like riffing, which make this track sound almost like a ballad, which quickly progresses into a pure Death Metal track. This song is based on a true story of a father who murders his daughters after separating from his wife. To reiterate, this is definitely one of the album’s most enjoyable tracks. “Alone in Your Presence” is the album’s sixth track, and is possibly the record’s most melodic song, as it’s mostly instrumental and not as punishing as the rest of the tracks. It’s a nice addition to Helping the World to See, but it’s not particularly engaging. Not to worry, as “Spirit of the Soldier” picks up the pace immediately. It’s introduced by war battlefield samples, and its initial riff is my personal favorite on the album. It’s very fast paced and catchy as hell. The song as a whole is almost entirely Death Metal, save for a fantastic melodic section right before the three minute mark. This portion of the song is followed by an excellent solo, and from then on it’s pure metal yumminess. The song as a whole constitutes yet another one of the album’s highlights. The next track, “Darkness is Comfort” is mostly noticeable thanks to the vocal exchanges between Mark Kozubec (bass) and Nathan Gearhart (main vocals). Other than that, I didn’t find this song all that exciting; it’s not a bad track by any means, it just doesn’t compare to its predecessor. “We Are All Dying” is without a doubt, the album’s most intense moment. This is pure aggression incarnated in the form of a six minute track. The guitar work shines once again on this chaotic song. This is the official closing track, and it does a fine job of concluding and summarizing this album’s overall spirit: brutality. There is, however, one bonus track by the name of “Her Beautiful Eyes”. It’s a song that appeared on the band’s demo a few years back. The most notable aspect of this song is its demented, excessively graphic lyrics, which can only be described as vulgar. Helping the World to See is wrapped up brilliantly, especially if you consider “We Are All Dying” to be the real album closer.
Despite all the praise I’ve given this album, I must point out that it does have a few downsides. For one, the production is very different from what we found on God Was Created. The vocals (and to a lesser extent, the drums) take a backside to the guitars, making them sound somewhat muddled. While it is true that this helps create an atmosphere of rawness, it can also be a little frustrating, as it definitely exudes the feeling of “bad” production. That’s an overstatement though, as the guitars and bass sound crisp and clear, and while the drums could be turned up a notch or two, they sound much more “organic” than in God Was Created (i.e. they don’t sound triggered).
Another aspect that may detract from your personal enjoyment of the album is its lyrics. While it is refreshing to see a Death Metal band deal with such socially aware subject matter, the execution can leave quite a bit to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, the graphic and literal nature of the lyrics fit the album adequately (after all, one wouldn’t expect poetic compositions from a Death Metal record), but I can’t help but feel they could’ve benefited from a little touching up. Other than that, the only other gripe I have has been addressed all throughout this review: the inclusion of a few, borderline generic tracks which offer little in the form of innovation. These aren’t really bad though, they’re just not up to par with most of the album’s ridiculously inventive tracks.
In conclusion, Helping the World to See is a fantastic album. Vehemence shatter any doubts the skeptics might’ve had, and deliver a record filled with surprises and top notch musicianship. In a way, Vehemence constitute everything that I like about metal. They’re an amalgam of influences, from Iron Maiden to Sound of Perseverance era Death, to most things in between. The result is much more than the sum of its parts though, and Vehemence confirm that they are “the real deal”, so to speak, and not just a one trick pony. I don’t know if Helping the World to See is better than its predecessor; all I know is, it’s an extremely enjoyable album. It is definitely progression, rather than regression, and the future can only hold good things for this band. Make no mistake about it; Vehemence are a force to be reckoned with, and anyone remotely interested in Death Metal should give this album a try.