Real death metal has been essential to the heavy music underground for 25 years now, periodically waxing and waning in the dark places that lurk inside all metalheads of certain countenance. But death metal’s appeal, unlike its subject matter, will never die and it need not overly concern itself with trifles like “progress” and “relevance”. Its seductive powers are far more ageless, primal and visceral. One need only listen to timeless masterpieces by Grave, Autopsy, Grotesque, Repugnant and countless others for proof positive. Vastum’s ‘Carnal Law’ is deeply cut from the same diseased, rotted shroud.
Vastum is from the Bay Area, where their debut album ‘Carnal Law’ was birthed from the wretched spawn of various other projects known and unknown. Vastum aurally copulates in the tapped vein of death metal’s putrified core elements. Focusing not on speed so much as creative songwriting with memorable riffs that both brutalize and dehumanize, and a dual vocal assault emanating from a lowered coffin, Vastum abuses indiscriminately without mercy. Tasteful, recognizable lead work not unlike the virtuosity one notes in mid-period Death or Carcass appears throughout but never overwhelms the fetid odor of vice at the center of ‘Carnal Law’. Like the paramount albums of the genre ‘Carnal Law’ makes its point quickly and resolutely, with viciousness and intent.
Conceptually ‘Carnal Law’ explores themes of sexuality and psychic disfiguration, not in the oft juvenile way associated with underground metal, but in the more cerebral context one finds in the work of Georges Bataille or psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche. Frustration, pain, pleasure, confusion, depravity, death, life and isolation; the lines are blurred.
While a newer name to the death metal multiverse, Vastum sound every bit a twisted, seasoned band well-read in the genre’s strengths and weaknesses, and harness them at will toward their own Law.