Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Vicious Vision - Aïn (2020)

Country: Morocco
Style: Groove/Thrash Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 13 Jun 2020
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When I noticed a new thrash album from a band from Morocco, I knew I had to take a listen and, while it's not quite as culturally wild as I hoped it might be or quite as vicious as the band's name might suggest, it does sound good and interesting to me and I'm happy to have learned a little more about African metal. The band have been around since 2006 but have roots in the golden age of Moroccan metal, which I'd love to hear more about.

Vicious Vision hail from Casablanca and Aïn is a letter of the Perso-Arabic alphabet. I wonder why they used it as the title for this album, given that much of it is sung in English and there are even samples of English news to introduce BodyFence. That does make it more accessible to me but I'm sure a cultural or linguistic detail is eluding me.

They play their thrash very much on the groove metal side of that subgenre, so they've surely been listening to a lot of Pantera. Surely they've paid a lot of attention to Sepultura too, both because of the ethnic sounds that a bunch of these songs overlay at points and because of the emphatic vocals of Joao Paulo Esteves which are clearly influenced by punk but still sound more metal than anything I hear in hardcore nowadays.

By the way, I should emphasise that the ethnic sounds sit under these songs, absorbed into them as background, because they rarely quite seem to actually be part of them. It's like the band happened to be rocking out on the street while a selection of other musicians happened by and they tailored what they were doing to match them, rather than the other way around. It makes for an interesting approach and, while it was a little offputting at first, I soon got used to it and dug it too.

I tend to prefer straight thrash to groove/thrash hybrid bands, but that's a lot to do with the more groove oriented bands being less imaginative on the whole. I still dig the more diverse groove bands, Sepultura surely being the most obvious, and Vicious Vision definitely on that list. I like that every song has common elements, helping to define the sound of the band, but each song still has overt differences and travels a different road.

Check out Burst into Chaos, for an example. The first half is straight ahead groove metal, decent but not outstanding, but then it shifts into a bluesy guitar solo halfway and then builds quickly into a fantastic sprint to the finish. I love how it kept me on its toes. Free of Mind does that too, as a staccato groove metal song until it isn't, with tribal drumming, some funky riffs, a lovely ethnic vocal midway during a breakdown, some excellent bass work from Hamza Chiaou and even a thoroughly unusual punk chant to wrap up. Oh yeah, these guys have imagination!

As a thrash album, this might not satisfy, because it rarely speeds up to a point where thrash really applies. This isn't a clean out your system album. As a groove album, it fares much better, always interesting and ready to add other sounds where they'll help, whether they be the ethnic underlays or an abiding habit to get down and bluesy. Bleeding Alone is like bluesy Pantera and I really like that.

I believe this is Vicious Vision's debut album, though they did release one of its songs as a single six years earlier. That's Sir 3allah, which feels both more vicious and more primitive than other songs here. It doesn't end so much as it deteriorates into static. El3ar is more primitive too and it gets really shrill vocally. I'm guessing these are older songs representing where the band came from rather than where they're going to. If so, I look forward to seeing how they'll develop further in the future.

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