Have any two bastard children of the blues been as intertwined as punk and heavy metal? One would be hard pressed to make a strong enough case to dispute it. Sure, plenty of other rock-oriented styles have had profound effects on metal, such as prog or AOR, but punk had the advantage of growing up alongside heavy metal, at least back in the golden age of both genres. Both cite Motörhead as a massive influence, and while the first wave of punk petered out by the early 80s, it was enough to have at least some influence on the always-important New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in terms of speed and attitude (Venom, Raven, Tank, etc.). As metal was in the middle of its first real explosion, punk found new footing, both in North America with the explosion of hardcore and in Europe with the wave of UK ’82 and d-beat, smack dab in the middle of the NWOBHM. With, of course, a few exceptions, while the fusion of hardcore punk and NWOBHM led to dawn of thrash, the amalgamation of UK ’82 and the NWOBHM would create a loosely defined hybrid occasionally referred to as metal punk, with d-beat leaving a pretty solid impression on both styles.
Vigilance do not play metal punk.
There is too much NWOBHM style and musicality to group the Slovenian maniacs into this particular category. So why go through the trouble of a brief, generalized overview of the relationship between the genres? Because Vigilance sound like they are trapped between the two without being a proper hybrid of both. As an exercise in “what if,” let’s imagine it’s Great Britain in 1982. Iron Maiden have split ways with Paul Di’Anno, and punk is in it’s more aggressive UK ’82 phase. What if, instead of grabbing a powerhouse vocal acrobat like Bruce Dickinson, Maiden recruited from the genre they so famously claimed to hate? That’s about where Vigilance have arrived, at least according to their fourth studio full-length, Enter The Endless Abyss.
“Blood And Black Lace” warms up with an extended intro before kicking into the main riff. Before the vocals even start, the rhythm section makes itself known as something special—the crisp ting-a-ling of the ride just glimmers over the warm, lively bass. The mix here is fantastic—all the instruments sound full, yet some clever witchcraft is applied to manipulate the auditory continuum and create a little extra space for everything to breathe. The vocals come raging in, punk as fuck and ready to fight. Honestly, the whole UK ’82 comparison comes from this department, as singer/guitarist Gilian Adam comes barking atop some beautifully crafted heavy metal.
The rhythm section constantly hits home run after home run. The interplay between the spunky bass line and drums at the intro of “The Return Of The Savage” is just pure 80s metal fun, while the verse section of “Dvoglava Kaca” brings a galloping beat that simply exudes a confident might beneath the phased guitar that, coupled with the keys, adds just a touch of psychedelia to the whole affair. The soloing and breakdown section changes things up a bit—Vigilance aren’t afraid to stray away from the established song structure, but they never feel like they are over-reaching, always smoothly bringing it back home for the finish.
While the rhythm section has been getting a lot of spotlight, it isn’t to downplay how good the guitar work is here either. The riffing is solid and serves the songs well, case in point being “The Gunslinger.” The verse/pre-chorus/chorus riffs play well off one another, building up to the catchy as hell chorus. The little licks between the palm mutes even wink towards spaghetti western soundtracks, fitting well with Adam’s rabid declarations of being the gunslinger himself. Some delectable twin leads storm their way in on “Stormblade,” because there is no way in hell you can have a song called “Stormblade” without twin leads, and it also happens to be one of highlights of the album. It’s got some of the best soloing, riffs, leads, and bass walks, and that’s just the midsection of the track.
Vigilance delivers a fun, raging, and twisted take on heavy and speed, making for a high energy trip with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting, if a little bizarre at times. The vocals will probably be the biggest obstacle for those who would most appreciate the musicality here, but if the listener can get around them or has an appreciation for the sweet vocal tones of snotty European punk acts like Charged G.B.H. or The Exploited, Enter The Endless Abyss is a sleeper of a damn good heavy metal album.