Innovation and a forward-thinking philosophy are admirable and all that, but there is something to be said for paying glorious homage to one’s forebearers. Something along the lines of “let’s get piss drunk and dance like The Bushwhackers.”
In other words, sometimes all a guy wants is some Death Metal. Capitalized.
Enter San Fran’s colonels of cavemanish carnage, Vastum. Debut Carnal Law is the aural analog to moshing in quicksand: plodding, lurching, heavy death metal worthy of the murkiest Florida had to offer in the early 90s. Imagine a slowed-down Ignivomous crossing swords with The Dead and Necrotism-era Carcass (at its simplest), with the battle being waged in the hallowed halls of Brothers Tardy University. It is a fully developed sound presented through a deep, perfectly appropriate production. The resulting 30 minutes are always at least quite engaging, with several moments inducing that one-of-a-kind alligator grin.
Opener “Primal Seduction” takes all of 10 seconds to well, seduce… in primal fashion, you might say. Mid-tempo, minimalistic riffs are quickly joined by a similar approach in the drum department and a glorious scream-growl vocal combo. (The growl side, by the way, is one of Vastum’s greatest appeals; reason enough to return on its own.) The album is best when the band takes on a bit of bounce and relative speed, such as during the bridge of “Umbra Interna,” but the winning factor here is that even when Carnal Law wanders a bit in the riff department, it never loses its boggy appeal, proof that the band not only worships their influences, but understands them as well.
That about sums it up. Nothing complex about this one, folks. Carnal Law could certainly use a few more hooks to hammer the nail in, but that can’t stop it from being an impressive debut. While they won’t exactly start a youth movement, Vastum deserves serious band-to-watch status among metal’s more gurgling traditionalists.