VEXED – Negative Energy (Album Review)

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Negativity distilled to its fundamental form.

The tail end of the 2010s saw some interesting developments in the metal world, perhaps most notably in the once stagnant metalcore scene on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to the reformation of several noteworthy pioneering acts and some new blood hitting the proverbial streets. In the latter camp stands the uniquely styled, alternative metal quartet out of Hertfordshire, UK dubbed “Vexed”, whom made some waves soon after their 2019 formation with a string of singles that would explore that darker and more mechanized side of the sub-genre. Their decidedly cynical and aggressive approach would prove a fitting soundtrack to the stagnant malaise that was the lock-downs of the early 2020s, with their debut entry “Culling Culture” turning some heads among such noted outlets as Revolver, Loudwire and Alternative Press and even gracing their corresponding Best Of lists for 2021. Not wasting any time, 2023 has brought an even heavier and more violent incarnation of this dynamic newcomer fold via their sophomore LP “Negative Energy”, which may prove to be the most aptly named album to come out of the 2020s yet.

Personal experience being cited as the chief influence of this harrowing collection of bottom-heavy fits of sonic rage, there is a clear sense of earnestness that permeates each moment of brutality, with themes of death, pain, betrayal and grief that is explored. Lead vocalist Megan Targett stands as the most dynamic player in this explosive melodrama, employing a vicious and often gender-defying display of guttural harshness that bears an uncanny resemblance to the morose barks and grunts of Jens Kidman, yet at several key points this extreme sense of aggression and anger gives way to an angelic, almost gothic vocal persona that wouldn’t be out of place on the cleaner side of a 90s death/doom duet. The surrounding instrumentation checks most of the boxes of a modern progressive metal outfit, with guitarist Jay Bacon splitting his time between ambient, post-rock inspired clean drones and rhythmically nuanced riffing that rests somewhere between a stomping nu-metal groove and a more complex djenting quality, whereas the battery provided by drummer Willem Mason-Geraghty and the bottom end handled by bassist Al Harper is an exercise in calculated precision that bolsters a simple yet bizarre blend of atmospheric dissonance and impact-based fervor.

“Negative Energy” Artwork

Despite the stylistically mixed up presentation, the 13 songs that round out this opus are largely an exercise in adhering to the formal tropes of alternative metal where technical gimmickry is scarce and the song structure is largely predictable and fitted for rock radio play. The punchy grooves and morose musings of this album’s lead off singles in “Anti-Fetish” and “X my <3 (Hope To Die)” are bleak enough to cut against the grain of popular pleasantries, yet one can’t help but note their infectious and sometimes funky character. Other shorter entries like “We Don’t Talk About It” and “Lay Down Your Flowers” lean in a bit harder on the band’s djent tendencies and have a far more intricate character that could trade blows with what generally passes for the most aggressive end of metalcore of late. Brief instrumental asides like the looming ambience with a militaristic stomp of an opening prelude “PTSD” and the spacey balladry of “DMT” showcase a more nuanced and contemplative approach that this album is otherwise bereft of to any measurable degree. Curiously enough, this otherwise straight line of pure aggression with a few jarring asides takes on a far more balanced and effective tone towards the end with late entries like “Trauma Euphoria” and the elongated progressive anthem “It’s Not The End” where a more melodic tone is struck during the chorus segments and Targett opts for a clean vocal delivery that results in a needed catharsis amid the constant barrage of discontent.

It’s a foregone conclusion that if aggressive music is one’s poison, there are few out there today who can match what Vexed brings to the table within the metalcore/alt. metal template, but as a total package “Negative Energy” may come off as static to most that are core consumers of said sub-genres. It is by no means a pop/rock affair, yet the bare-bones songwriting approach that typifies most of its contents makes it strangely amenable to anyone who doesn’t want a lot of fancy bells and whistles thrown into the mix. That being said, the overt melodic factor that comes into play towards the album’s conclusion betrays a far more effective approach to this format that Vexed fails to full capitalize on, which holds back what is otherwise a stellar display of modern metal influences with a fixation upon the darkest crevices of the human experience. By all measures, these songs are solid representations of the cynical tone that they seek to strike, but as a whole album it finds itself struggling to maintain a sense of coherence. Nevertheless, this is a good entry by a band that is one to be watched as the 2020s continue to unfold.

Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: June 23rd, 2023
Genre: Alt-Metal

Musicians:

  • Megan Targett / Vocals
  • Jay Bacon / Guitar
  • Willem Mason-Geraghty / Drums

“Negative Energy” Track-list:

1. PTSD
2. Anti-Fetish
3. We don’t talk about it
4. X my <3 (Hope to die)
5. Panic attack
6. Lay down your flowers
7. There’s no place like home
8. Extremist
9. Default
10. Trauma Euphoria
11. It’s not the end
12. DMT
13. Nepotism

Order “Negative Energy” HERE.

7.8 Great

UK alternative metal upstarts Vexed strike a decidedly dark and pessimistic tone on their sophomore outing "Negative Energy", painting a chugging medley of cold, industrialized tapestries that combine the rhythmically intricate progressive stylings of Meshuggah with the brooding sensibilities of 2010s metalcore

  • Songwriting 7.5
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 7.5
  • Production 8
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