Once in while, something comes along that breathes new life into the old. It respects its past yet looks forward to the future. Such an entity is this record. While upon initial listening (while I was multi-tasking) it seemed to be a typical retro sounding black metal record, repeated and more concentrated listens showed its true colors : a swirling mass of blacks, crimsons and dark blues. It (wisely) takes cues from Rotting Christ (early to mid period) and adds a bit of dark post-rock and twang to the bubbling mix. The recipe yields wonderfully full formed results, that will be as enjoyable for the retro-heads as well as the latest wave of black clad hordes. The Greek influence shows in the tasty licks that just don’t let go (witness the opener), ever-present throughout the album. The vocals are also classic, just the right shade of raspy without most of the overblown histrionics that have ruined many a record.
If this was all, it would be an above average black metal record. But just to up the ante, the band occasionally blazes forth into crust inspired sections that floor, and add new life to a traditional sound. The band remains melodic, dark and angry, yet rocks out with some great rock n roll. This is NOT the half-assed attempts at punk that Darkthrone and friends use as crutches in substitute for a creative well gone dry. It is a vital and vibrant element of the album’s repertoire showing a band going places.
There is a very vintage sounding keyboard presence on almost all the songs, that never overpowers or solos, but adds to the dreamy delirious atmosphere. The softer interludes amidst the blasting and the d-beats that show a band not afraid to venture forth, the clean tones almost having a dark surf like quality. The music is not overly technical, neither is it saturated with melodies, rather the compositional perfection here uses controlled sections of each. The epic lyrical content references indo-aryan classical mythology and sounds pretty metal coming through Argento’s vocal chords.
Production and musicianship are near about perfect for a work of such scope, as every nuance of the guitars and bass and the killer drums can be heard clearly, without resorting to the patented extreme metal production template (we are thankful). To boot, there is an absolutely ripping cover of “Helter Skelter” that closes the CD, with relatively clean vocals and a blast section towards the end.
This is their fourth(!!)full length, and how they slipped under the radar of so many metal heads remains a mystery (much like an element of their sound) needs immediate rectification. I, for one am going to be searching out the back catalog. And if the words “crust” and “Rotting Christ” used in the same sentence don’t make you want to go out and grab VLTRA, you are reading the wrong review.
(Note : I just found out this is their last album. Sigh !)