Vastum: Hole Below
20 Buck Spin (2015)
When I discovered my sister’s Kiss records, I fell in love with Heavy Metal. In particular the camp horror of Gene Simmons. I still hold a flame for some classic Thrash and Death Metal records of the 80s and 90s, but my overall interest in the genre is limited these days. A band has to be different, smart, and way out there to hold my attention.
Vastum are one of those acts. They have this weird, Freudian aura about them. A creepy intellectualism. No tales of Satan or gory murder. This record’s name alone, “Hole Below” perfectly encapsulates the ambiguous nature of their schtick. Are they talking about something vaginal (birth) ? Anal (waste)? Hellish? Emotional?
Guitarist and dual vocalist Leila Abdul-Rauf pens lyrical examinations of misogyny through the lens of ‘horror’, while main growler Daniel Butler brings his day job as a psychotherapist to proceedings. When they aren’t sitting on panel discussions about violence and sexism in music Vastum spew out dank and gritty Death Metal. Guitar tones so low and dirty that your skin tingles in disgust. Throaty shrieks, bowel-disturbing barks and reptilian hisses. Double kick drums and ominous riffs. No flashy solos. The mood is dark and pensive, but never aggressive or violent.
Gender, sexuality and sex are monstrous in the world of Vastum. Everything is ambivalent and in flux. Fear resides in the everyday and the comfortable. On Intrusions Butler growls about, “a garish succession of hair, sweat, semen.” On Empty Breast, Abdul turns misogyny on its head with lines like, “empty testes, milked to death.” These guys are far more terrifying than the b-grade horror of bands like Cannibal Corpse.
Vastum aren’t going to convert the unconverted. If you’ve never appreciated Metal, this isn’t going to change your mind. But for the curious, and fans of Carcass, Pig Destroyer and old school Obituary, this record bears the scars of everything that Death Metal should be.