Album Review: Vexed - Negative Energy
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
In 2021 Vexed arrived on the scene like a seismic explosion with the release of the astounding debut record, Culling Culture. The intervening years have seen the band touring like maniacs and laying waste to venues across this nation. With every show the band got stronger until, at last year’s Amplified Festival, they damn near blew the walls out of Manchester’s Rebellion Bar.
Eleven months on from that Sunday evening, Vexed is back with a brand-new record: Negative Energy. The obvious question centres around whether the band could match the youthful intensity of the debut and capture that lightning in the bottle once again. I must say, through the early listens, that Vexed have managed to capture a slightly different lightning this time around, more mature and more accomplished and, dare I say, more balanced.
From the short instrumental introduction of PTSD, with its harsh drumming, it’s apparent all Vexed’s armaments are locked and loaded. Negative Energy begins proper with Anti-Fetish which builds around a huge, reverberating bass by Al Harper and electronic squeals curtesy of guitarist Jay Bacon. The unsettled rhythms of We Don’t Talk About It reflects the taboo subject matter at the song’s heart; with the pre-chorus settling into a Nu groove akin to Slipknot, while Megan adopts a Randy Blythe delivery.
On that front it must be stated that Megan is as much in complete control of her vocal performance as the lads on the instruments are with theirs. Whether it’s the more direct and driving There’s No Place Like Home and Nepotism or the ever-morphing delivery of X My <3 (Hope to Die) and Default, Negative Energy brims and boils with an edgy energy that sees itself manifest in Megan’s performance.
Musically, the record doesn’t aim to destroy with speed, rather with a slower, more precise action, delivered through a constantly shifting sea of polyrhythms. Panic Attack, Lay Down Your Flowers and Extremist are all reminiscent of a Meshuggah influence; …Flowers even manages to incorporate a big breakdown and some added Metalcore elements woven through.
As Negative Energy begins to wind to a close, Vexed throw in a series of unexpected curve balls just to keep the listener on their toes. Trauma Experience adds some Gothic vocal to the mix and concludes a breakdown with Jay going all Guitar-God and noodling out a Classic Rock run up the fretboard. DMT is a short piece of ambient progressive music, built around a heart-beat pulse and with a whispered spoken word passage buried deep within the strings.
The album’s longest track is It’s Not the End which finds Vexed wearing their collected hearts on their sleeves in a piece concerned with the inevitable loss of a loved one. It is here that the band demonstrate their range and their understanding of when less is more. Although the longest song on the album, this one is continually engrossing, as Megan flips from the mournful to the angry against a series of post hardcore moments, informed through, of all people, Ms Vera Lynn.
Negative Energy could well be one of the landmark albums of the year, propelling Vexed even further on the road to their goals. It is also proof positive that the UK Extreme music scene is in the rudest of health and long may that be the case.