(Witch Hunter Records, 2012)
Hey dude, what’s up. Moving kinda fast there. Got 10 minutes? C’mon. Ten minutes, that’s all I ask. You have ten minutes, right? Here, put on these headphones. No, I didn’t put peanut butter in the earpieces – this isn’t a hidden-camera show or anything. I’ll even let you control the volume, although I recommend you keep it high. High enough so that what you hear will liquefy all the living tissue in your head. You don’t need to turn it that high, actually, for that.
Black Veins, a “power trio” (although not in the classical sense – more so, they’re a trio and they wield instruments that emit a tremendous physical power) from Birmingham, England, combine elements of traditional hardcore, grind, death metal, and sludge into a mean-ass concoction that, to borrow the tired-but-ultimately-literally-appropriate (OK maybe not “literally” appropriate) cliché that also appears in the band’s press, will melt your face. Yes, Black Veins’ …And Hell Followed EP, the follow-up to their 2011 self-titled debut EP, is a face-melting recording.
Not content to blaze through their repertoire at top speed (top volume? Absolutely), Black Veins instead process their listeners through heavy churning machinery, slowly extracting every ounce of discomfort and leaving all within earshot a pulped mess. Then why, you might ask, would that even be something that anyone would be interested in subjecting his- or herself to? I answer: Did I suggest this was for those who didn’t?
One certainly requires a minimum level of intestinal fortitude when experiencing confrontational music of this nature. And what I found when I encountered Black Veins, expecting erroneously a blast-beaten death metal pummeling, is that this type of music can be just as violent when the BPMs are dialed back. Instead of rapid-fire face-punching, …And Hell Followed would better serve as a soundtrack to slow torture, prolonged agony rather than spurts of sharp antagonism. The guitars chug, atonal and vicious, drums plod, and the vocals are strained to an extreme. I can see why “sludge” is an apt descriptor – the sound of its industrial process is clearly an influence, and it’s quite possible that the reason Black Veins’ are named as such is because they have the foul stuff flowing through them.
What keeps …And Hell Followed fresh (relatively, of course) is the actual dynamic changes – “…And Hell Followed” begins with a breakneck hardcore beatdown before drawing the reins, and “Death Crown,” the “jewel” of the release, as it were, cycles from sludge to death blasts to fiery guitar soloing before the crushing weight of song collapses upon itself. But perhaps the album-closing track sums it up best in its very title: “Suffer,” an act that Black Veins attempt to mirror in their own self-immolating fashion, perfectly encapsulates the condition the band is trying to manifest. It works perfectly – these ten or twelve minutes, while arduous, are ultimately satisfying – the band works hard, you work hard, you all have a beer together at the end of the day. You have time for that right?
RIYL: Converge, Napalm Death, Meshuggah