October 8, 2017

Vassafor - Malediction - Album Review + Track Stream.

Vassafor - Malediction.

Review by Trevor Proctor.

New Zealand’s fertile underground has been very productive this year, bringing us two sublime debut albums from two of the country’s greatest bands, Heresiarch and Vesicant. The excellent news for us is this productivity is set to increase even further as underground heavyweights Vassafor are due to bring us their highly anticipated second album ‘Malediction’ on the 13th of October which will be co-released by two of the underground’s finest labels. 

Debemur Morti Productions will release digital and CD versions and Iron Bonehead Productions will release the vinyl LP and cassette versions. As with all Vassafor releases ‘Malediction’ was written, recorded, mixed and mastered by Vassafor.
One unique aspect to the album is the difference between the CD and LP versions, each has a different track and also different artwork and layout. The artwork from the CD version pictured below is entitled ‘Hypnagogic-trance-formula II’ and is the creation of David S. Herrerías who in the past has created artwork for the likes of Nightbringer and Akhlys.
The artwork for the LP version which is pictured above is the creation of Antithesis from Cold Poison Arts. Brian VDP also contributed a piece of art entitled ‘Ritual Death Oracle’ which will feature on the back cover of the LP version and on the interior of the CD version.

The differing track between the CD and LP is track three on each version – on the CD version it’s a track entitled ‘Elegy of the Accurser,’ and on the LP track three is ‘Servitude.’ When asked about the differing tracks between formats VK’s response was, “we had quite a bit of music but I didn't want to do a double LP for this one and wanted each format to be individualized and have its own spirit and value, so different art and layouts but still connected through all the releases.”

Vassafor’s current line up consists of BP and VK – BP performs drums and has played with Vassafor on three previous occasions, he was drummer on their debut album, ’Obsidian Codex,’ the 2014 split shared with Sinistrous Diabolus and 2015’s ‘Call of the Maelstrom,’ a split Vassafor shared with the mighty Temple Nightside. BP also performed drums for New Zealand band, Malevolence, on their split release with Backyard Burial entitled ‘Grinding Aotearoa.’ VK has been the core member of Vassafor since the band’s formation and is also one of the underground’s most productive and talented musicians. He currently plays for Sinistrous Diabolus, Temple Nightside and Terror Oath; in the past he’s played for bands such as Diocletian and Ulcerate and also performs live for Blasphemy and Pseudogod. On top of this impressive list he’s also one of the underground’s most prolific producers and has mixed and mastered and/or recorded for a string of bands including, among many others, Qrixkuor, Bestial Raids, Triumvir Foul, Coscradh, Vircolac, Weregoat and Witchrist, so to say VK’s influence on underground music is second to none is a bit of an understatement. 

Vassafor formed in Auckland in 1994 and their first output was ‘Demo I’ which was released in 1997. Despite the promise and talent shown by this demo the band ceased activity in 1997 with no further output until 2005 when they released ‘Demo II.’ Two EPs followed in the form of ‘Southern Vassaforian Hell’ and ‘Vassafor’ along with another demo entitled ‘Promo MMX’ between 2006 and 2010. 
In October 2012 Dark Descent Records released ‘Elegy of the Archeonaut’ on CD, a compilation which featured tracks from their previous releases along with some previously unreleased studio and rehearsal recordings. Such was the popularity of ‘Elegy of the Archeonaut’ that it received a vinyl re-issue by Dark Descent Records in 2014. 
Vassafor’s debut album ‘Obsidian Codex’ followed in December 2012, released by Parasitic Records on double LP with a cassette version following in February 2015. Vassafor performed live to air on KFJC Radio in San Francisco on the 11th of February 2013 and released the recording digitally via their Bandcamp page
Between 2014 and 2015 Vassafor was at it's most productive with two releases during each year. In June 2014 Iron Bonehead Productions released a 12” split Vassafor shared with Sinistrous Diabolus and Psychedelic Lotus Order released ‘Death Transmission,’ a limited vinyl version of the live broadcast from KFJC radio. In February 2015 Iron Bonehead Productions released the ‘Call of the Maelstrom’ 12” split which Vassafor shared with Temple Nightside – a perfect release with stunning output from both bands that was given an easy 10/10 here and also landed the number 2 spot in my top 25 album listing for 2015. In October 2015 Debemur Morti Productions released the phenomenal triple CD compilation ‘Invocations of Darkness,’ a very significant release that captured Vassafor material released and recorded between 2010 and 2014 that prior to then was never released on CD. Vassafor’s only output since then was an MZ.412 cover which featured on 2016’s ‘Ancient Meat Revived - A Tribute to Cold Meat Industry’ which was co-released by Iron Bonehead Productions and Nuclear War Now! Productions

Ritual Death Oracle. Malediction CD interior + LP backcover art — Brianvdp.

With the MZ.412 cover being the band’s only output since February 2015 anticipation around ‘Malediction’ has been reaching frenzy levels in underground circles, unfortunately high anticipation can often go hand in hand with disappointment but this is definitely not the case with this album.

‘Malediction’ starts with ‘Devourer of a Thousand Worlds’ which is a behemoth of a track – Vassafor have used longer track lengths on a few occasions in the past (‘Archeonaut’s Return’ and ‘Ossuary in Darkness’ being two examples that spring to mind) with devastating effect and this is also the case with this opener. With over sixteen minutes to play with Vassafor has no need to rush into things and opt to use the beginning of this track to create an atmosphere that slowly ramps up the hostility levels before hitting us full frontal with their suffocating and sinister Black/Death Metal six minutes in. Longer track lengths are more common than ever recently but there are few bands that can come close to Vassafor in terms of capturing and holding your attention for so long. One of many distinct features with Vassafor’s music is they can seamlessly flit between tempos and levels of heaviness without missing a beat and ‘Devourer of a Thousand Worlds’ is a track that typifies this. In typical Vassafor style it takes several twists and turns throughout its duration with the track featuring many sections with different styles and sounds that fit together perfectly, a truly outstanding track and one that shows a level of song writing ability and musicianship that’s streets ahead of most. 

At times during ‘Malediction’ Vassafor opt for a more up-front yet totally violent approach such as on ‘Emergence (of an Unconquerable One)’ which is available to stream below, but no matter the approach the underpinning factor across all of the music on the album is the completely immersive, oppressive and satanic world their music throws us into. As stated previously track three differs between the CD and LP versions but I’m deliberately not going to over describe either as I’d rather leave that discovery for you to make yourself. ‘Elegy of the Accurser’ from the CD version lasts seven and a half minutes and ‘Servitude’ from the LP lasts just over three minutes and needless to say both are exceptional with each adding its own respective values to each format.

VK’s distinctive vocal is another of Vassafor’s most identifiable attributes and on ‘Malediction’ it maintains this pivotal role throughout, seething menace and evil with every word that adds to and amplifies the suffocating and destructive nature of their world eating music.
The performances from both musicians on ‘Malediction’ are predictably second to none, the drumming is remarkable, and reaches an almost inhuman standard at times and VK’s guitar work plays its usual essential role in bringing the listener on a journey into the unknown, upping the destruction levels at every opportunity and hitting us with several lethal solos during the album. This is truly a joint effort from two of the underground’s most talented individuals, combining perfectly to form a malevolent entity whose modus operandi is total audial destruction.

Track four, ‘Black Winds Victoryant,’ starts slowly with some background effects and a quote from J. Robert Oppenheimer’s famous speech about the detonation of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds.” At least two occasions where this quote has been used in extreme music come to mind, but on no occasion has it been used with more relevance as Vassafor propels us into a world of unadulterated sonic violence and evil across this and all other tracks on the album – perfectly summed up by the press release that stated, “Simply put, 'Malediction' is a statement of intent. A purely Satanic album, in the band's eyes, and one which draws a line firmly in the sand, this is pure Southern Vassaforian Hell driven to the outer reaches of primitivism and transcendence. Here, Vassafor strip bare their most barbaric tendencies, down to their most unapologetic form, and build anew a temple of unimaginable might. The maw of chaos opens ever wide, beckoning the listener to submit and be devoured; meanwhile, tendrils of tension untether in a manner most ambient. If any of Vassafor’s earlier work achieved a sense of vertigo - and it surely has - then 'Malediction' is the band's most potent distillation/distortion of such yet.”

‘Malediction’ sounds fantastic on your first listen but there’s a complexity and level of detail to it which means each subsequent listen reveals further little nuances, subtleties and effects embedded within the music which make for a journey of discovery on each and every listen. 
I make no secret of being a huge fan of Vassafor but if anything this makes me more of a critic of their music but there’s absolutely nothing to criticize on ‘Malediction.’ I feel Vassafor has always had a very unique, discernible sound which sounds like no other band and this truly exceptional and twisted album is easily one of their best works to date – an album not to be missed and one that’ll leave a lasting impression on both your psyche and speakers for a while to come. Both versions are extraordinary, essential purchases that are not to be missed.

By far this is one of 2017's best albums 10/10.

01 - Devourer of a Thousand Worlds 
02 - Emergence (Of an Unconquerable One) 
03 - Elegy of the Accurser (CD release)
03 - Servitude (LP + Cassette Release)
04 - Black Winds Victoryant
05 - Illumination of the Sinister.

'Malediction' by Vassafor will be released on CD by Debemur Morti Productions and released on LP + Cassette by Iron Bonehead Productions on the 13th of October. (Both labels will be stocking all physical formats)

A  number of previous Vassafor releases are available here from Iron Bonehead Productions.

Some previous Vassafor releases are also available here from Debemur Morti Productions.


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