Album Review: Vircolac – Veneration

Album Review: Vircolac – Veneration
Reviewed by Sam Jones

I’ve followed Vircolac for some time now, ever since I first experienced their debut album, Masque, back in 2019. Formed in 2013 out of Dublin, Ireland, the band first released a number of Demos before their first EP, The Cursed Travails Of The Demeter, released in 2016. For some time this was the state of things, but it wouldn’t be long before Vircolac’s aforementioned debut record would release come the beginning of 2019. Since then there had been little else hinting towards further activity, but soon the band would announce a follow up album: Veneration. Poised for a February 23rd release window and continuing their contract under Dark Descent Records, Vircolac return with another display of Irish-tinted extreme metal.

Irish extreme metal is far and few between but Vircolac are a welcome addition, and their heritage is made immediately apparent with this record’s opening. Rather than berating our senses with an instant barrage of ferocity nor some classical piece, the band dive into their culture with a feminine vocal performance that’s illustrious and laden with folklore. The fact that the band dedicated the full opening track to this piece is brave considering they’re counting on it to guide the audience inside before the rest of the record follows suit. But it’s effective because there’s nought else in accompaniment; there are no other elements thrown at us as the women are singing so our attention becomes solely reserved for this folky performance. Only when they’re clearly finished do the band inject a climbing array of strings and, soon enough, the primary performance we’ve come to receive. It’s a bold decision as it instantly cleaves Vircolac from the crowd, but in doing so throws all expectations in the air since they’ve already showcased this may not be a typical death metal affair.

I recall the band’s last album. It was a predominantly stripped back product where little else was thrown into the mix to distract us from the band’s performance; Veneration however throws that notion to the wind, now imbuing Vircolac with a soundscape that has taken every weight off the limiter so their performance feels massively heightened, amplified and bursting at the seams. Listening to this record is like watching a bulldozer continuously roll through one wall after the next as the band’s sound seemingly cannot be contained. Their riffs possess an extraordinary live quality to them, as if you’re in the room where they’ve been recorded in. As a result there’s little about the guitar work that feels overtly processed or artificial. Rather than funnelling their soundscape through a narrow space, the band have opted for a means that enables their riffs to reach their full scope, and expand to their mightiest breadths. There are instances where the riffs are less like guitar pieces and more akin to horn sections as the band boom and roar from one track to the next. It’s a very cinematic experience.

Album Review: Vircolac – Veneration

It’s worth mentioning that this record isn’t all that long. Including the introductory vocal piece, this record only has seven tracks from start to finish, so there’s no chance an audience could start feeling overladen with their senses as Veneration wanes. But what did strike me was how little fanfare the band have applied to their songwriting; one could surmise the band may wish to coat their songwriting with additional grandeur owing to the limited number of tracks, but that just isn’t the case. Other than what the songwriting demonstrates there’s little else hinting an underlying surface that’s just waiting to burst free and take command. It’s evident the band wield great self-control, keeping both our attention and their own upon the immediate songwriting they themselves can infer without things becoming too lofty or ambitious. Now there are a good slew of shorter tracks here but then we get the occasional longer piece that, while the band infer a greater emphasis on presence with these, are still the concentrated and focused performance the band have established the rest of the record to be.

It’s interesting to note how Veneration really puts forth a blackened aesthetic on death metal. I feel this was hinted at throughout their last record but Veneration really pushes the pedal down on this idea, as a slew of elements from vocals to drumming to the overall ambience oozes with this visceral, blackened atmosphere. While the band play death metal that’s clearly not taking prisoners, and they aren’t injecting anything obviously atmospheric into their soundscape that isn’t otherwise their own performances, by their own songwriting Vircolac have doubled down on the biting and vicious nature their sound offers. The vocals are these snarling utterances that see the tongue wrapping round every tooth before speaking out the next line and, furthermore, the vocals are easily distinguishable even as the band’s riffs rush at us with jettisoning speed. In addition, the drumming imbues this blackened aesthetic further as blast beats have been given a lower place in the mix, as has their bass, ensuring what blast beats are projected across to us sit below the riffs. Ensuring little is conflicting with the other, Veneration is a surprisingly uniform record for a band that’s effectively geared towards removing all such limitations.

In conclusion, Vircolac’s second album is a clear evolution upon their first. The band’s curious Black/Death metal hybrid sound is one certainly unique unto them as few bands seem to straddle this line with such finesse. It’s an interesting album as there’s very little else, other than what Vircolac themselves can provide, inferred or infused within their songwriting but even then the band turn this album into a boisterous and booming work that sees all feasible walls smashed down. It’s quite the change from being frivolously stripped bare to blasting your way through the soundscape as Vircolac have moved from one album to the next, but that can only be indicative of their ability to create on record precisely the soundscape they’re vying for. Ireland isn’t the biggest place yet, from bands like Zealot Cult and Primordial, Vircolac showcase the Irish nation has more than a few gems hiding away.

For all the latest news, reviews, interviews across the heavy metal spectrum follow THE RAZORS'S EDGE on facebook, twitter and instagram.