VEXATUS - Atom Pompeii (REDRUM - CD 2013)
This album gave me quite a big headache. I’ve been listening to it for the past week many times and somehow I just couldn’t convince myself to it and I couldn’t decide if I really like or just dislike it. And I guess there will be many such opinions coming, as what Vexatus has recorded on their second CD “Atom Pompeii” is something different and not necessarily something what met my personal expectations. All in all the debut of Vexatus (“Tortura” from 2010) supposedly was an old school death metal influenced by the Swedish classics… at least that’s what I have heard about “Tortura”, as to be honest I don’t own the album and I have only listened to few songs on youtube or somewhere else… But people were saying that the whole CD was quite decent slab of the classic death metal with groove and great feeling. And yeah, the song, which I remember (“The Madness That Never Was”) was truly awesome and pretty much in the vein of Entombed. But meanwhile with the second CD Vexatus took somehow a different path and toyed with the listeners, coming up with more unusual and dissimilar album. I assure you that if you’re expecting from Vexatus something similar to “Tortura” then “Atom Pompeii” may disappoint you a lot.
I’m saying about disappointment, but that’s actually something what we may argue about. Because if Vexatus took a different path and recorded something more unusual and original, then I guess we should praise the band for it, right? Nowadays there are many classically sounding death metal bands around, so if Vexatus became more original then it is good for them. But the problem is that their second album is just not something what I would honestly enjoy. So then, what is so unusual about “Atom Pompeii” that it gave me a headache? Well, on the first listen one can say that the album is still quite Swedish influenced, if you only listen to the sound of it… Well, certainly Michał Barski (my good old class mate and friend – hellzzz!) provided a nice production to the album with great Swedish tone for guitars and powerful, energetic feeling. For sure “Atom Pompeii” sounds way better than “Tortura”, but the fact that the guitars have a classic Swedish tone doesn’t necessarily mean that Vexatus plays like Entombed or Dismember. OK, there may be some similarities here and there, with few riffs, but as overall “Atom Pompeii” is just something unlike anything else you’ve heard before.
I think that one of the major factors, which makes Vexatus sound so bizarre and different are the vocals. Well, what I remember from the songs from “Tortura” is that the vocals sounded close to LG Petrov’s, which was quite cool. Meanwhile here they’re not even typical growling; not the kind of shriek or vocals you would easily get used to. Personally they sometimes remind me Klimorh from Non Opus Dei – and this guy is also known for his unusual vocals and Vexatus’ vocalist Mike also came up with untypical sound of scream / growling… But let’s be honest: I just don’t like his effort. Sure, definitely these vocals sound unusual and give the music a new dimension and original touch, but anyway I would still prefer more typical type of growling, instead of these screaming vocals. The music may have sounded more brutal then and would be easier to listen to; anyway, that experimental work of Mike is not something I would like.
OK, the vocals are one thing… they are what they are; but the music is also quite surprising and has some moments, when I was quite taken aback. For sure Vexatus tried to create a different music to their first album and some of these songs on “Atom Pompeii” are quite hard to swallow. There are obviously some straight forward tunes, like in the opening track “Slaves of Korea”, but even in this song, among those blasts you’ll find a couple of more twisted parts. “Tenebrae” is also quite cool, I really like some of these riffs here (but again the vocals and their arrangements are not entirely that good…), except maybe that calmer part in this song, somewhere near its end. But what the hell can I think about such songs as “Lebensborn” – which is weird, maybe progressive, but also just damn boring? Or “Clades Variana” and „The Archangel’s Slaughterhouse”… I don’t like these riffs, these ideas and the whole atmosphere of the music. Don’t get me wrong – I like if the albums shows a diversity in the songs and if they’re more challenging sometimes, but somehow “Atom Pompeii” couldn’t really convince me and the more I listen to it the more it bores me. And I don’t only mean the vocals, but also just the songs, which are nothing exceptional – or let me put it this way: I do appreciate the fact that Vexatus tried to do something different and run away from the stereotypes, I am sure that many of you will like it and also value it highly, but personally I would rather listen to great powerful and more straight forward, aggressive record rather than something so bizarre and aching. I kept trying to find something about “Atom Pompeii”, what would intrigue me and make me want to come back to this album, but I couldn’t – it only irritated and bored me more and more.
Standout tracks: “Slaves of Korea”, “Half-Life”
Final rate: 60/100