Helping the World to See

I’ll admit, my review of 2002’s God Was Created was slightly overzealous, but Vehemence’s second full length album was still worthy of my album of the year title, so with their follow up I’ll try to be a little more level headed and objective, but still, Vehemence are on of my favorite bands.

If anything, Vehemence are listeners; cruising message boards and metal web sites, absorbing a serious lashing for their last effort’s artwork, Wes Benscoter was enlisted to improve the visual aspect of the band. Next, the concept that led to some (to some) questionable lyrics has been dropped in favor of a more traditional single song structure, though personally, I thought the concept behind God Was Created was a unique take on death metal. Also, the production that beleaguered some listeners has been actively tweaked, although to these ears there are still some issues, but more on that later. Song wise, the lengthy deeper contextual songs that carried the story for God Was Created, are noticeably fewer, with Vehemence seemingly wanting to please more pure death metal pundits with more shorter direct songs, and while it may please the unwashed masses, it takes some of the individuality away from the band.

The departure of keyboardist Jason Keesecker is noticeable as the frequent refrains that upset some death metal purists are also absent, again adding to the slight lack of the atmosphere that permeated, God Was Created, and that will either be a benefit or a boon depending on how you viewed that album. Other than 3 tracks, Helping the World to See is less epic and grandiose, but more direct and visceral, although still containing threads of melody due to Bjorn Dannov’s and John Chavez’s finely honed Schuldiner/Murphy inspired guitar work. I’ll tell you right now there is no “She Never Noticed Me,” on this album, so those that hated its “sensitive” content will be pleased, but personally I thought that song defined the bands sound. However, three tracks come close; The hypnotic “Kill For God,” the real story inspired “You Don’t Have to be Afraid Anymore,” which probably comes closest to creating the sense of overwhelming emotion of “She Never Noticed Me,” with brief piano intro and swirling solo work. Album standout track “Spirit of the Soldier” with a superb opening melody and mid song solo well worthy of Death’s legacy.

Dannov and Chavez are in my opinion 2 of the scenes most talented young song writers but they seem to have hamstrung themselves slightly by reigning in the more in-depth, melodic bridges in favor of more direct and straight forward sound for a majority of the album’s songs. Not saying any of the songs are “bad,” and Vehemence still have an uncanny knack of merging brutality and harmony, but characterless album opener “By Your Bedside,” the 2 minute bong hit blaster “To the Taste,” and “Darkness is Comfort” while certainly entertaining, more immediate and streamlined in their brutality, just seem rudimentary compared to the album’s best 3 songs – and that may please many listeners. Album closer “Her Beautiful Eyes,” is by far the album’s heaviest track, but seems bereft of individuality as it falls in line with 85% of other blasting US death metal.

That all being said though, even at their most basic, Vehemence are still a superb band that is trying to please all fans all death metal. Not to be understated is the solid performance of diminutive drummer Andy Schroeder, while no Roddy or Yeung he is stoutly rhythmic and carries the songs well without unnecessary flair, even if not done justice by the production. Ahhh, the production, I actually enjoyed the production on God Was Created while many didn’t, and Vehemence, again actively responding to criticism made a huge effort to try to rectify their sound. However, it still seems that they haven’t found a sound that truly fits them yet, Nathan Gearhart’s huge bellow is lower in the mix (a main criticism of GWC was that he was too high in the mix), which is a shame as he has a great death metal growl with insightful lyrics, and the drums seem more processed.

A talented band like Vehemence cries for a big name Nile Kernon or Andy Sneap production no matter how cookie cuter it sounds-they need a huge sound to carries their true melodic sound rather than change their song writing. Therein lies my issue with an otherwise fine, fine album; the net savvy band seems to taken much of the criticism of GWC to heart and while actively addressing some of the issue such as artwork and production, seem to have written and recorded this album to try to appease fans that disliked GWC rather than appeal to those that enjoyed it for what it was. Rather and continue with their unique chosen sound, Vehemence have tried to squeeze themselves into a more brutal mould with their desire to be liked by more fans. I preferred GWC, but this album is still a worthy follow-up from a bright star in the US death metal scene with their best album still to come.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
April 19th, 2004


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