Album Review: Expunged - Visions Of Agony
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Expunged are a name I’ve encountered before, yet due to the quantity of bands releasing stellar material this day and age I’ve never managed to become familiar with their style. Formed in 2019 out of Ontario, Canada, Expunged are a death metal act whom, in just some short years, have unveiled a plethora of material already. Within the first two years of their time we got three Demos, an EP, a Split and a Single and that’s even before Expunged released their first full length work, Into Never Shall, by mid-2021. The band have since relaxed their slew of released material yet not to the detriment of their focus, for Expunged are prepped to unleash their sophomore full length release, Visions Of Agony, for a mid-March release. Let’s see what Expunged are all about.
Right out of the gate, Expunged let us know they aren’t here to mess us around. The guitar work has a massive scope to its sound but it’s not sheer volume we’re affronted by, rather it’s how the band ensured all possible blockers and limiters were taken off their riffs that could hinder their performance in any way. The riffs possess a meaty, refined tone yet the power they exert is utterly electric as the resonance they emit flies completely off the handle. By doing so, Expunged have sought to grant their record with a much grander soundscape than Visions Of Agony actually possesses; it doesn’t throttle you as much as it peels back the skin from your face as their malicious ferocity becomes apparent within the opening minutes of their performance. Expunged are clearly an act of death metal but the way they possess themselves with such a guitar assault brings to mind essences of D-Beat and hardcore punk thrown in for good measure. Evil isn’t necessarily the word, whereas blistering feels much more apt.
This notion of writing death metal that’s looser, and less constrained by self-imposed restrictions, stems just as much from the vocals too. The delivery is gruff, powerful and harnesses all the vitriol this particular timbre is able to muster yet, the vocal performance herein doesn’t have the blocky or guttural presence many death metal acts oft aspire to present. As per the riffs, the vocals mirror this ethos by utilising a style that is far more concerned with the projection of power and providing a seething, boiling onslaught as opposed to subjecting the audience to copious levels of crushing atmosphere. Such a vocal delivery wouldn’t cooperate with the band’s form of songwriting which, as detailed prior, is dead set on providing a ruthless performance that is easy for fans to dive into and quickly.
What did surprise me however, was the band’s attention to melody. I would not deem this record as melodic death metal by any stretch whatsoever, it’s abundantly evident the band’s leaning towards a pummelling death metal onslaught; Expunged do however pepper their songwriting periodically with these flashes of melody sewn into the fabric of certain tracks. These instances are few and far between, often mere seconds of songwriting throughout the opening of closing moments of songs, yet it helps elevate the band to greater heights of death metal than had their songwriting been completely traditional in the extreme metal sense. It isn’t much but it does grant Expunged with more identity than their typical counterpart and for a Canadian extreme metal band, there aren’t many who can say they sound similar to what Expunged manage to crank out.
I appreciate how, in spite of the swirling maelstrom that are the riffs and vocals crashing together throughout the record, you can still make out the drums with total ease. The cymbals clash as they’re struck and they fall in line with the riffs’ supercharged intensity, but it’s good to note how the bass drums can pierce through the mire to give us bass that’s certainly needed to underline this record in a solid foundation which, in turn, gives the songwriting the support to be as ferocious as they are. In addition, the Tom-toms have the acoustics down just right whereby they can punch through the band’s performance to set the pace we’ll be following Expunged with. If anything, the drums are just as strong as the riffs are but for a different purpose; the drums provided herein are essential to the record. Had the drumming been lower in the mix or not be possessive of as strong a presence then Visions Of Agony would have been a far less grounded record and, by extension, their songwriting would dearly lack the impact the band intended.
In conclusion, this record was a roaring and invigorating ride that never lost its steam throughout its rampant journey from start to finish. I think this album will take many by surprise owing to the style of riffs and streamlined songwriting the band went for; absent are the blockier and crushing style of riffs and in their stead we’ve got death metal that rides along this wave of power we can’t help but join in on. I feel like Visions Of Agony is also a little more open to newer fans of extreme metal due to its open-ended soundscape that, other than the blistering assault such riffs possess, really allows the audience to breathe as they’re being taken along for the journey. The infusion of hardcore punk and D-Beat into their style is also rather unique and certainly lends these Canadians with a more distinct identity than many such acts these says. On the whole, I was thoroughly happy by what Expunged offered and I’d absolutely be down for checking out more upcoming material in the future.