VLTIMAS – Epic (Album Review)

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A new blackened epic is unveiled.

Expectations are often the sworn enemy of any union of known quantities, or super groups to use the common term. This goes doubly so in the eventuality of such titans as ex-Morbid Angel front-man David Vincent, ex-Mayhem and current Aura Noir axe-slinger Rune “Blasphemer” Ericksen and Cryptospy drummer Flo Mounier being involved in the same project, which came about in the mid-2010s and resulted in the studio power trio Vltimas and their 2019 debut album “Something Wicked Marches In.”

Said album would make some waves in extreme metal circles and was noteworthy for its unique blend of black and death metal elements into a compact yet soaring Wagnerian metal niche, though subsequent touring would be hampered by the Covid lockdowns. But with the turmoil of the early 2020s now safely in the rearview, the time has arrived for this new beast to enjoy a needed resurgence, and the result is nothing short of “Epic,” hence the name.

At every point, this freshly minted slab of dark metallic fury presents a level of largess and theatricality that hearkens back to the original spirit of death and black metal, yet packages it in a modern sound that exudes a sense of smoothness more in keeping with the present day. The combination of Flo’s chaotic yet rhythmically precise kit work and Rune’s glistening blend of melodic and heavy-hitting riff work forms a tower of sound, bolstered by a glassy and neatly crafted bass foundation provided by live player-turned full-time member of the fold Ype Terwisscha van Scheltinga.

But the element that turns this unique mixture of sonic elements into a spectacle befitting the colossal visuals normally associated with the high period of Romantic Era opera and symphony is the highly versatile vocal presentation put forth by David Vincent, who more often eschews his formerly guttural approach from the Morbid Angel days for a middle mixture of rawness and tonal clarity, often resembling the bellow of a classical baritone taking on a thrash metal aesthetic and throwing in some deeper and cleaner bass choir asides to fatten the arrangement.

“Epic” Album Artwork

Though the sum of this opus barely crosses the 37-minute mark; the nine chapters that round out its duration present a comprehensive and highly dynamic display of genre-bending brilliance that can’t be mistaken for anything that has already graced the metal world. Entering the stage on a bleakly dissonant note, the creepy atmospheric overture dubbed “Violens Discordant” channels a similar feel to the intro of the previous album’s opening title anthem, but is doubly as harrowing in character and presents a far cleaner break when transitioning into the subsequent title anthem “Epic”, which is itself a well-rounded display of measured aggression at a mid-paced tempo that is as mercilessly heavy as it is infectious.

Though one of the least overtly explosive entries on this album, it presents every characteristic element of this album from Vincent’s booming bass choirs and ranting growl to Flo’s flashy kit work, to speak nothing for the brilliant blend of dense blackened riffs with conventional thrashing elements and a brilliant, shred-happy guitar solo to top it all off.

As the rest of this anthology of aggression unfolds, the ante is continually upped in terms of kinetic fury, as well as atmospheric nuance. On the faster and more thrashing side of the coin stand such unrelenting entries as “Miserere” and the blast-happy hyper-paced monster of an anthem “Scorcher”, with the equally compact yet somewhat more measured thrasher “Nature’s Fangs” and the more mixed up and technical “Exercitus Irae” also proving to be no slouches while sounding a bit less like something that could have occurred during the early ascent of death metal circa 1991.

By contrast, extended musical chapters like “Invictus” and the closing number “Spoils Of War” take more moments to explore territory more in line with the progressive strides that black metal began to make in the mid-90s, hitting climax points that are comparable to the previously noted faster songs, but contrasting them with more nuanced and sonically dense moments that give both Rune’s unique manner of layering riffs and Vincent’s multiple vocal personalities a decent amount of time in the diabolical moonlight.

Anyone approaching this album expecting something along the lines of classic Morbid Angel, Cryptospy or Mayhem will come away puzzled, yet when taken as its own creature, as the artists involved in crafting it have themselves stated, it can appeal equally to each of said bands’ target audiences. From start to finish, it presents a perfectly balanced composite picture of all the classic moments in each member’s past accomplishments, thus becoming its unique sonic chimera.

It packs an immediate punch that lands it firmly within the general death metal template, yet all of the detailing that comes along with it, from the uniquely cleaner and operatic vocal approach to the dense layering of blackened, thrash, and post-rock guitar elements. All of the above results in an album that is so varied that it could be heard a dozen times yet not be completely comprehended. For one of the earlier entries of 2024, it is sure to stand as one of the most original studio outings of the year.

Released By: Season Of Mist
Release Date: March 15th, 2024
Genre: Blackened Death Metal

Musicians:

  • David Vincent / Vocals
  • Rune “Blasphemer” Ericksen / Guitars
  • Ype Terwisscha van Scheltinga / Bass
  • Flo Mounier / Drums

Epic Track-List:

1. Volens Discordant (1:02)
2. EPIC (4:35)
3. Miserere (3:51)
4. Exercitus Irae (4:01)
5. Mephisto Manifesto (05:05)
6. Scorcher (03:21)
7. Invictus (5:30)
8. Nature’s Fangs (3:52)
9. Spoils of War (5:54)

Pre-order “Epic” HERE

8.9 Excellent

Vltimas returns after a 5-year long studio hibernation to release a second uncompromising blend of Northern European frost and North American ferocity that channels the most potent elements of Morbid Angel, Mayhem, and Cryptopsy into 9 explosive musical chapters

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 8.5
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1 Comment

  1. Season of Mist website lists March 15 as the release day. THis article currently says May 15.

    Great review! While it’s a bit out of my comfort zone, I’m looking forward to this release.

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