Vile Creature’s latest full-length begins with a howl of such ferocity that, even if the rest of the album’s forty-four minute duration was silence, serves as a more accurate representation of 2020 than I’ve experienced thus far. Yet Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! is far from silent.
Building very much on the organic sprawl of Cast Of Static And Smoke, the duo’s 2018 release, Vic and KW (drums and guitar, respectively, with both of them sharing vocal duties) have moved beyond what could easily be described as doom metal. This is a heavy record, undeniably, but it’s also laced with a punk velocity that adds an acidic bite to the pounding riffs and rhythms. More so even than that, this punk sensibility allows Vile Creature to remove themselves largely from the musical palette at points and foreground elements like the Minuscule vocal group, led by Laurel Minnes.
Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! is, broadly, separated into three distinct movements. Opener Harbinger Of Nothing and the following track, When The Path Is Unclear, form a blended pair that throws out riffs which ebb and flow from roaring, in-your-face ferocity to the sublime immensity of a storm raging in the distance. At the heart of the two tracks is a yearning howl – both vocalists demanding repeatedly that the listener ‘tell me who I am’ – that becomes the recurring motif of this opening section.
When The Path Is Unclear takes Harbinger Of Nothing’s more traditional approach and, at least initially, slows it down to a sedated crawl reminding me very strongly of Aelter’s jazz-tinged doom-noir or even the soporific, smoke-laden atmospheres of Bohren & Der Club Of Gore. It’s become something of a cliché to say, but these two tracks contain more ideas and power than many bands muster over their entire careers. Vile Creature understand the power, not just of riffs and pounding drums but of narrative and using recurring elements to interlink their music.
Yet, as the interstitial announcement informs us, this is just the album’s A side.
It feels weird to claim that an album like this, where tracks lurk around the eleven minute mark, has what could be considered a single, but You Who Has Never Slept – second in our three movements – is exactly that. Vic’s huge, rolling drums introduce what becomes a perfect showcase for Vile Creature’s work: hammering guitar chords that lurch into a kind of discordancy that feels weirdly correct, long spaces where single notes are left to sing their own songs and an intense glare of defiance as KW declaims that ‘we will not be bystanders’. The track’s video, released as a teaser for the album proper, even takes that most well-worn of metal tropes – the performance video – and turns it on its head; the video’s focus is on dancer and physical performer Anita Nittoly rather than the band themselves, the duo preferring to lurk in the dimly light seats of a theatre’s stalls.
Vile Creature understand the power, not just of riffs and pounding drums but of narrative and using recurring elements to interlink their music…
As good as the album is up to here, it’s the final movement – made up of Glory Glory! and, inevitably, Apathy Took Helm! – that take proceedings to the next level. The shortest tracks on the album, they begin with the ethereal, intertwining vocals of Minuscule, which are supported by the barest hints of strummed guitar. In lesser hands, this could well become an overly-bombastic piece of filler. My Dying Bride or Cradle of Filth would layer strings over every single second, and completely miss the point. Not so with Vile Creature as the melancholy yet assured quietness becomes a moment of reflection in the album’s wider narrative, only increasing the impact of the music that’s gone before. And then, perfectly, Apathy Took Helm! brings back the guitar and drums, bolstered now by Minuscule’s haunting vocal lines in perfect contrast with Vic and KW’s tattered howls.
Until, in a crescendo that looks back to musical elements from the preceding tracks, it’s over. Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! is one of those records that ends precisely when it needs to. Nothing unnecessary, no bloat. You reach for the play button without even realising it, wanting that terrifying screech to begin the journey again.
2020 has, to say the least, been an unusual year, one filled with sadness and confusion as much as anger and rebellion. Vile Creature, in both their music and their political stance as people, have made a piece of art that, at least in some way, tries to make sense of this and offer a path forwards. It would be easy, and it is very easy for some, to follow the same, negative rut. Very easy to let the apathy that Vile Creature are examining keep us held in the same behaviours and prejudices. Very easy to keep quiet and carry on.
This album, in the grand scheme of things an obscure and marginalised voice, shows how we can build on the past and make something better. Which is a powerful, powerful thing.
Scribed by: Daniel Pietersen