Thunder Bay Ontario’s VHS (perhaps standing for Violent Homicidal Slasher, or even the track on the album Vampiric Hemoglobin Suckers) ply their works in the genre known as ‘horror metal’, and ply it they do, writing about any, and all horror cinematic subject matters, over a brief but prolific career that’s seen them release a slew of singles, including a Christmas blast, as well as four prior full-lengths. VHS tend to lean into themes, and the theme of I Heard They Suck…Blood is, you guessed it, vampires, and vampire cinema. Admittedly, when I received this to review, I knew nothing of the band, and rolled my eyes at the idea of ‘vampire metal’, but after repeated listens, and digging into the band a bit, I at the very least came to appreciate their commitment, humor, and dedication to their craft.
However, it would be erroneous to toss off VHS as all schtick, as this Canadian power trio lay down some pretty vicious, old-school death metal, complete with some punk-ish beats, and thrash chugging. Vampiric Hemoglobin Suckers opens with a spooky organ, and quite a few vampire movie samples, including Dracula’s immortal ‘listen to the children of the night, what beautiful music they make’ line, before giving way to the thrashy riffage of Fake Blood And Push-Up Bras courtesy of guitarist/vocalist Mike Hochins. The song also features The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad.
The Frog Brothers is a cheesy-yet-awesome death metal homage to everyone’s favorite teenage vampire slayers from The Lost Boys, featuring, I shit you not, some pretty random, yet effectively placed saxophone flourishes from Elric Pfeifer across the top. An obvious wink to the ‘sax man’ from the movie. Undead Cassanova features one of the most awkward, yet ear-worm-y ‘chorus’ on the album with the line ‘he’s a blood-sucking creature of the night’ repeated throughout for maximum effect.
Trevor Strnad shows up again on the chunky, riffy mid-album ripper Horror Of Dracula, before the trio go off the rails slightly into 80s hair metal territory briefly in the middle breakdown of A Town Called Purgatory, before Dave Ingram, he of Benediction, adds his death growls to Immortality Comes With A Price.
old school death/thrash attack, coupled with their obvious sense of humor, dedication to 80s horror, and tongue-in-cheek homages to on-screen bloodsuckers…
Musically Hochins, bassist Curtis Mill, and drummer Andy Middaugh tend to stick pretty close to old-school, traditional death metal and are capably brutal in their execution. Middaugh shows that he’s perfectly capable of laying down some punk-y, d-beat action, as he is with the blast beats. Mill’s bass work is as well, suitably brutal enough, and he also adds some ‘melody’ to Hochins growls, as the two ‘harmonize’ throughout I Heard They Suck…Blood.
Getting The Gang Back Together is a nice end of the album riff monster, that chugs along briskly before switching tempos a few times. Black Mass is a melancholy, dirge of a closer, that’s actually a highlight of this record for me.
I’m not knowledgeable enough of a film buff that I was able to pick out the tons of soundbites on here. I did catch The Lost Boys, Fright Night, Dracula, Near Dark, and The Simpson’s Treehouse Of Horror snippet. VHS wear their influence of New York death/grind legends Mortician on their collective, blood-splattered sleeves. They too kept it minimal, brutal, and also included horror soundbites into their works.
In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by this record. It took a few spins, and a little research into the band’s aesthetic, but once I was able to square where VHS are coming from with their old school death/thrash attack, coupled with their obvious sense of humor, dedication to 80s horror, and tongue-in-cheek homages to on-screen bloodsuckers, not to mention capably-executed, if not groundbreaking death metal, I Heard They Suck… Blood turned out to be a fun listen.
Scribed by: Martin Williams