Vulture Industries – Stranger Times – Album Review

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Artist: Vulture Industries

Album Title: Stranger Times

Label: Season of Mist

Date Of Release: 22 September 2017

‘Stranger Times’, the fourth album from Norwegian avant-garde metal band Vulture Industries was one album I had little intention in reviewing. When I was given the task of feeding back my thoughts on their sophomore album, ‘The Malefactor’s Bloody Register’ for Powerplay Magazine a few years ago, I was left cold by it. I appreciated the eccentricity and the broad spectrum of sounds and influences that came together on the record but I couldn’t help but compare it to ‘La Masquerade Infernale’ by Arcturus, against which I felt it paled in comparison.

I therefore completely passed on their third album, ‘The Tower’ and only took a cursory listen to this record out of curiosity. But by jingo, I’m glad I did because I was not expecting to hear what confronted me. Immediately, I felt compelled to put metaphorical pen to paper and bring about this review.

With hindsight, I now appreciate that the direct comparison with Arcturus was not altogether accurate and was a little disingenuous to Vulture Industries. The good news is that ‘Stranger Times’ sounds nothing like their Norwegian compatriots, so I can’t make the same mistake twice. Instead, Vulture Industries have grown and matured as musicians, taking their sound in different directions, to great effect.

It naturally helps to have a stable line-up and Vulture Industries prove the point. Aside from one tweak in personnel over the years, the band have remained unchanged since their inception in 2003, having previously gone under the moniker of Dead Rose Garden from 1993. The quintet is therefore comprised of vocalist/keyboardist Bjørnar E. Nilsen, guitarist Øyvind Madsen, guitarist/vocalist Eivind Huse, bassist/vocalist Kyrre Teigen and drummer Tor Helge Gjengedal. You get the feeling that there is a great chemistry within the band and that’s tangible within the nine tracks that makes up ‘Stranger Times’.

According to the band themselves, this record was inspired by an undimmed desire to push the boundaries and limitations of metal music. To an extent they have succeeded and there are some oddball moments within the album that raise an eyebrow or two. However, upon a first spin, I was shocked by just how immediate the majority of the material is. Just about every single track offers a big hook, a strong melody or a more straightforward song construction that gives it that undeniable immediacy. I’d actually use the word ‘catchy’ for a lot of the material. When I think ‘avant-garde’ or when I hear ‘pushing boundaries’, my first thought is ‘ok, this is likely to be hard work’ or ‘am I broad-minded enough for what I’m about to hear?’ I was not expecting my first response to be ‘wow, this is cool!’ But that’s the reality that affronted me with ‘Stranger Times’.

Vulture_Industries-8086-Jarle_H_Moe
Credit: Jarle H Moe

Having allowed the music to sink in a little more now, I am firmly of the opinion that this unusual situation is the big strength with ‘Stranger Times’ and Vulture Industries. The music remains undeniably quirky but the way in which they have so smoothly integrated the quirkiness and bold ideas into compositions that come across as so ‘normal’ is very impressive indeed. None of the tracks outstay their welcome either, meaning that they are more easily digested.

Right off the bat, ‘Tales Of Woe’ impresses with an upbeat, slightly cheeky opening riff whilst the vocals have a vaguely Gothic rock feel to them. In fact, the vocals are all over the place within this track, from forceful, almost shouted, to quietly whispered with a bit of falsetto thrown in for good measure. As the song moves on, it develops an excellently insistent driving riff that increases the drama and leaves you with a big, positive first impression.

‘As The World Burns’ is even better in my opinion. It starts quietly with dark, smoky-sounding vocals on top of a riff that is pure classic rock. There’s a sleaziness to the song as it begins to build towards a powerful chorus of sorts that’s full of melodic intent, accented by some great lead guitar lines. Again, the vocals play an important part, with Nilsen taking the lead in commanding fashion.

Up next is ‘Strangers’ which abruptly changes the direction of the music. A wonderfully melodic vocal intro is then juxtaposed with something less intense. There’s a light, breezy feel to the verse that introduces the relaxed sounds of a gentle trumpet into the mix. And I don’t actually hate it either. The chorus, when it arrives, is a thing of beauty, as is the way in which layers of synths, guitars and vocals all come together to create a sense of building suspense. The trumpet returns as the track hits its bold crescendo, albeit in a more flamboyant guise whilst the guitar solo is full of feeling and power.

Other highlights include the dreamy ‘The Beacon’ that initially blends ethereal melodies with emotive lead guitars before upping the ante to deliver something altogether heavier and darker in tone, complete with striking vocals and deceptively complex time signatures. The comparatively ‘normal’ ‘Something Vile’ features arguably my favourite melodies on the record, whilst ‘My Body, My Blood’ ventures into acoustic blues territory, drenched in misery and melancholy. There’s even room for a sprinkling of doom and a palpable sense of dark theatre within the plodding, churning claustrophobia of ‘Gentle Touch Of A Killer’.

Whilst ‘Stranger Times’ might be a slightly more honed and less overtly bonkers record than others that fall under the ‘avant-garde’ banner, it is offers enough in the way of eccentricity to give it a truly original personality. The fact that the oddball moments are so expertly draped in the fineries of melody and accessibility just makes the whole album all the more entertaining and captivating thanks to an irresistibly magnetic charm.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

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