New Zealand’s Vassafor have existed now for 20 years (barring a brief hiatus in the late 90s/early 00s) and after a slew of demos and EPs they unleashed their debut album Obsidian Codex upon the world in 2012. One of the best metal albums of the decade so far, the suffocating and violent atmosphere with the torrential, frenzied and often technical riffing over ninety minutes made for a frightening, psychedelic journey into the depths of hell. Despite being busy with live EPs and splits with Sinistrous Diabolous and Temple Nightside, as well as appearing on the tribute compilation to the legendary Cold Meat Industry record label it still feels their new album Malediction has been a long time coming and one that I’ve been excited for more than any other since they first reported they were going back into the studio. Worth the wait, they’re still doomy and oppressive, but have moved into more of a classic black metal territory to devastating effect and released a 55 minute behemoth of frenzied riffs and crushing atmospheres leaving, nothing but crushed skulls and scorched earth in their wake.
Vassafor are no stranger to long songs,and Malediction opens with the sixteen minute Devourer of a Thousand Worlds, dark oppressive ambient quickly giving away to their low-tuned churning guitars and throbbing migraine-like bass, slow and doomy riffs emerging, then moving like a heavy tank across broken bodies, in a blackened doom like Venom got fucked up on a bunch of opiates. The distorted cavernous sounding blackened vocals twist serpentlike and malevolently like commanding satanic forces to desolate the garden of Eden. it’s everything you know and love about Vassafor in the first five minutes before they burst into full throttle and full devastation, smashing into speed with barreling tremolo picked riffs and artillery blastbeats, then moving into some mid-paced second wave BM melodies played with their caustic oppressive production, re-imagining the old masters with a new standard in evil. In the faster parts later in the track the riffs are angular, snaking tendrils swallowing the earth into non-Euclidean depths that would unnerve Lovecraft himself. It’s a barbaric, oppressive and evil track, twisting back and forth with expert riffcraft and superb atmosphere. Emergence (Of An Unconquerable One) was the album’s first single, and the shorter five minute piece is a fast and violent maelstrom of brute force guitars, battering drums, unhinged demonic vocals and frenetic soloing, but there’s still time with time to throw some doomier riffs into the mix.
They delve back into the archives for the next two, Elegy of the Accurser appearing on the Invocations of Darkness Compilation, while Black Winds Victoryant was on the 2007 self titled EP. The former is a riff heavy mid paced, headbanger, with tons of Venom and Celtic Frost influence, the snarled vocals sounding evil once again on a track that dials down the sonic oppression and ups the classic first wave sound, again done with their classic low tuned, churning production style. It’s the least texturally insane on the album and as battering as it is, and provides a great change of pace, it’s not as psychedelic and original as most of their other tracks. The latter was always one of their best tracks, but this re-recording at two minutes longer and with better production is along with the opener one of the highlights of the album. As much as I enjoy the lo-fi drums and raw sound of the original, they nail it here, the dark ambient intro is oppressive and the addition of the Oppenheimer quote “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” is a perfect intro to the madness to come. More oppressive and psychedelic riffs churn with their oppressive gloom, a bass heavy and carefully crafted racket that sounds like the audial equivalent of all your darkest nightmares.
Vassafor have been one of the best bands in the underground metal scene for many years, and Malediction proves this further still. Combining their usual oppressive, psychedelic, monstrous doomy sound with more obvious but well executed nods to first and second wave black metal makes for a great addition to their sound, but they’re still as devastating as ever, and at points as close to the audial equivalent of the apocalypse you’re ever likely to hear.