Album Review: Vore, "Gravehammer"

You can't help liking these guys and wishing them well. After all, they have been following the Metal torch wherever it leads them for 18 years, self-releasing albums and failing to find a label. Like the hammer-wielding monster warrior who adorns the cover of their third opus, the Arkansas trio have been in the Metal wars, but they have soldiered on regardless.

They are also good at what they do and are conscientious about their craft. This is evident from opening track, The Cruelest Construct, which sets out the proverbial stall with Page Townsley's squalling guitar lines neatly intercut with Remy Cameron's terse militaristic drumming, topped by Townsley's death growls and hell roar. It's tight and controlled, like watching a pack of tarot cards being expertly shuffled or synchronized swimming by killer sharks.

The tempo ranges below most death Metal but, as on second track The Unseen Hand, is way too fast for doom, although like doom their music has room to breathe, brood, and exhale its gloomy vapors. Doomwhore opens with Jeremy Partin's pulsing, echoey bass-line. This is then buried in dense riffing and insistent drumming, but the production is so clean that Townsley's ominous growl moves through the noise mesh as nimbly as a wolf through a forest.

Townsley's epic voice seems so natural that you imagine he probably uses it to speak to his mum when he phones her on Sundays. 'Doomwhore' is a great track but during it you get a sense that the elements of their sound are keeping out of each other's way just a bit too neatly.

Uruboros, a ghostly acoustic interlude, is obviously there to set up the album title track in a calm-before-the-storm way, but Gravehammer itself is slightly disappointing. Straining to sound heavier than anything else on the album, it is initially impressive but veers towards plodding.

Vore are to be praised for their lack of pretentiousness and for being straightforward death Metal. I'll second that, but my main gripe with the band is that at times they seem too comfortable. Should Death ever sound comfortable? Also, the music sometimes comes across as too well-drilled, the production too clean, and Townsley's guttural growls and lengthy screams, while impressive, seem lacking in real angst and rage.

Vore might not have hit the death metal big-time but they've found something they're good at and now seem to be in their comfort zone. If they want to get further, I suspect they'll have to unleash a little more unpredictability, danger, and genuine pain and rage in their music.

Perhaps these final, unkind words of mine will help them in that endeavour.

Metal Talk
21st July, 2012

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