Monday 19 September 2022

Vulcano - Stone Orange (2022)

Country: Brazil
Style: Black/Death/Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 29 Apr 2022
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It's good to see Vulcano knocking out releases nowadays. They're one of a handful of bands who we can thank for introduce Brazil to extreme metal and, while they've never been as interesting or as diverse as fellow pioneers Sepultura, they've stuck to the sound they found in 1984 and continue to be entertaining. That means that pretty much everything I said about their previous album, 2020's Eye in Hell, is just as applicable here, whether it was positive or negative.

The positive is that this is another large set of short songs that unfold in the proto-extreme thrash style that pointed the way towards where black and death metal would go. In fact, this particular set is a larger one, with sixteen songs on offer this time out instead of the thirteen from last time, though one is a very short entirely instrumental piece. However, those sixteen songs still come in under fifty minutes. Not one reaches four minutes, five don't make three and that instrumental, 418, doesn't even manage two. As you might imagine, they all get down to business quickly and are just as quick to wrap things up and hand over to the next track, like a relay race.

The core of the sound is thrash metal, with most tracks finding a decent speedy pace and infusing us with energy in the way that only thrash metal seems to do. The black and death angles to their sound mostly manifest in the guttural vocals of Luiz Carlos Louzada, who has clearly listened to an impressive amount of Destruction. They're clearly an influence on the band in general, but on the vocals most of all, right down to the inflections on The Altar of Defiance. Louzada takes that style from 1983 or 1984 and moves it forward in a slightly different fashion. Remember when we didn't talk about death growls and black shrieks, just demonic vocals? That's kind of where Louzada's at. Backing vocals don't show up too often, but when they do, they're more overtly death growls.

The negative is that most of the songs also unfold in pretty much the same way, meaning that it's tough to call out highlights because there's little to delineate one from another. That's not to say that there's no originality or quirkiness here because the bluesy intro to Rebels from 1980s states otherwise. That's what's going to stand out on a first listen but further listens highlight more that deserves praise, from the slower title track with its interesting cymbal sound to the two note bass intro on Witches Don't Lie, which is ambitious but works really well. However many listens you give this, though, a lot of songs just sound like other songs.

And that means that the value of the album isn't so much in the songs themselves as the album's overarching impact. I enjoy this style immensely and it's never a hardship to listen to fifty minutes of new proto-extreme thrash metal, especially when it comes with 21st century production values that may seem counter to the rough and ready style but work well nonetheless. I didn't quite get the opener, Metal Seeds, which is half album intro and half song proper, but everything kicks in as Putrid Angels Ritual gets frantically underway and stays there throughout.

Not everything is fast, not everything is heavy and not everything is intense, but nothing here fails to be at least two of those things. This general approach means that the album remains fresh but never really does much different. The title track slows things down and Trigger of Violence kicks in with a neatly slow riff too, albeit one that carries an inherent urgency that we know means that it will speed up soon enough, but these aren't huge variations and one bluesy intro to take us aback doesn't take them too much further. It's all about the way they energize us with combinations of a trio of things we like, in the way that cocktails can do different things with similar ingredients.

I should add that the final song is a cover, but an unusual and perhaps unexpected one, because it carries the name of Vulcano Will Live Forever. It's actually a song by Cadaverise, who wrote it for a demo that served as a sort of tribute to the bands they presumably loved most, the omnipresent Venom and a couple of fellow Brazilian acts, Armagedom and Vulcano. It's telling that this one is a natural fit for the Vulcano sound, suggesting that Cadaverise really know their stuff.

And so, if you're into this proto-extreme sound, I'm happy with another 7/10 here. It's not original but it's done very well. If you need progression in your music, you won't find it here. Like a host of bands I've reviewed lately, including Municipal Waste and Midnight, you know exactly what you're going to get from a Vulcano album and they're happy to oblige you.

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