Monday 11 March 2019

Black Vulpine - Veil Nebula (2019)

Country: Germany
Style: Stoner Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 1 Mar 2019
Sites: Facebook | Official Website | YouTube

Oh, I like this! It's very heavy stuff, somehow seeming slow even when it isn't, like on the opening track, Limbus, which retains a plodding style even at speed. The music is a wall of sound and it really doesn't want to quieten down so we can hear the vocals, which are clean and impressive but don't always feel the need to fight for dominance. When they do, they win, and it's glorious.

And it's that contrast that works so well. This is heavy stoner metal that isn't really interested in being doom, even when it kinda is. The beginning of Hollow is doomy enough for Candlemass and there are inevitable nods to Black Sabbath all over the place. It's much more interested in simply being heavy, which isn't quite the same thing, and it succeeds on that front with aplomb. It's bludgeoning stuff and I've never wanted to be bludgeoned quite so happily before.

The vocals, however, have a sweetness to them that floats airily around the music. They're the Beauty to the music's Beast, reminding that however dark things get, there's always light up there somewhere. What's so impressive is that while they spend quite a lot of time underneath the music, they find power whenever they want to and, when they do, often during the more overt choruses, they have it to spare. They soar as often as they float, even if its with a similar sense of melancholy underpinning it.

I was only able to find the first names of the band members, so I presume that those delightful vocals belong to Sarah, with Daria backing her up at points. Daria also plays lead guitar, with Sarah backing her up in turn, while that powerful rhythm section is Stefan on bass and a rather patient Rudiger on drums.

I've let this play on repeat for a few days and it's become something of an old friend. Just like I think of any particular friend as a person rather than a combination of different attributes, I think of this as an hour long slab of heaviness called Veil Nebula rather than eleven individual tracks. If I force myself to focus in for the sake of this review, it's still more to elements than songs. I'm not sure I could even pick a favourite. Minotaur maybe.

To be fair, some of them could be seen as positive by some listeners but as negative by others. Most obviously, the Jaws theme shows up at the start of The Panting for no reason I could fathom, played on what sounds like a very resonant cello. It sounds good but its familiarity is offputting. Later in the same song, there's a bizarre backing vocal that sounds like crowd noise. Initially I thought it was a cacophony of cymbals, or maybe a demonic choir, but it's just vocals. It adds a wild texture and it's neatly enigmatic but it's abrasive.

I could call out the enticing woodblock in A Lucid Dream or the calamitous feedback ending to Haunted House or the evocative duet between guitar and voice on Minotaur. I could call out an epochal riff but there are epochal riffs almost everywhere here. There's so much to be found if you're willing to explore. I wonder what you'll find and whether it's what I found.

The only traditional song on offer here is Liar, which is bouncy and catchy and its own master. It's still agreeably heavy but the music holds back for Sarah's voice can stand out above a complementary riff. Then again, there's little in the way of lyrics and Sarah alternates with some sort of whisper, so the catchiness may be partly due to the majority of the singing being a chorus.

If you like your stoner metal so heavy that it's carved in granite and raw enough to be right off the bone, but with vocals that are sweetly powerful, then Vein Nebula ought to be right up your alley. It's certainly right up mine.

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