Album Title: Vermillion Oceans
Label: Black Lion Records
Date of Release: 22 April 2022
I’ve never seen a single minute of the TV show ‘Stranger Things’, so when this album is described as “a cross between Gothenburg metal and the score to ‘Stranger Things’”, half of the reference is lost on me. It goes on to suggest that “‘Vermillion Oceans’ sounds like a massive, zeitgeisty metal album taking a stroll through Hawkins, Indiana.” My assumption that Hawkins is the setting for the TV show proved correct on closer inspection, but it still means nothing to me. Hell, I’m neck deep in music reviews for this website, so the chance to indulge in TV binge watching isn’t even an option. I’ve made my bed, so I must now lie in it.
Fortunately, I know my melodic death metal, so the Gothenburg reference pricked up my ears, even if the cover artwork and imagery left me thinking that perhaps the PR company had mixed up the promo blurb with another album, perhaps an 80s tinged Gothic rock record. But no, ‘Vermillion Oceans’ is very much a melodeath album and it comes from the minds of a five-piece from Stuttgart in Germany called Credic. ‘Vermillion Oceans’, as it transpires, is actually their second release and, on balance, it’s not bad at all.
I thought I’d reference the elephant in the room from the outset, and state that this album does sound like it was heavily inspired by the ‘Haven’ era of Dark Tranquillity. So, depending upon your level of appreciation for that kind of output, you’ll either love or loathe ‘Vermillion Oceans’ accordingly. Interestingly, the press release references ‘Haven’ specifically, so this isn’t a case of my ears misbehaving, thankfully. That said, I need to make a further two points before I move on. Firstly, the music is not a complete replica of Dark Tranquillity’s Millennium baby and secondly, neither does this effort quite reach the same standards.
All that being said, ‘Vermillion Oceans’ is still a thoroughly decent slab of melodic death metal, and it does have a few of its own nuances to explore. For a start, some of the material within the music has been given the ‘modern’ treatment, meaning that the songs contain some up-to-date electronic and synths sounds. Take the title track as the example of what I’m getting at. Within the song, there are some bold effects and sounds that are more akin to the ‘modern metal’ sphere, bands like Amaranthe springing to mind immediately. The chorus is catchy and is a fittingly heavy, whilst vocalist Stefan Scheu does a reasonable job at not sounding a million miles away from Michael Stanne, growling deeply and confidently atop the metallic tumult, that veers into vaguely metalcore territory with chugging stop-start riffs from guitarists Andreas Steinle.
Whereas ‘Haven’ typically beat us with track after banging track of short, sharp, melodic intensity, Credic dabble in slightly longer compositions. It’s all relative though, as I’m only talking four-to-five minutes duration, with only three tracks here coming in at the sub-four-minute mark. One of these songs, ‘Darkened Fields’ is an utter delight though, coming in with a catchy lead guitar lick before an immediate melody assaults the ears. The chorus, bathed in bold synths, is driven forcefully by the drum/bass combo of Waldemar Janzen and Martin Stump respectively. Interestingly, it is Janzen who handles the electronics, and, on this song, he excels, creating a rich atmosphere to accompany the melodies.
‘Chosen Ordeal’ on the other hand, is a much more thrash-infused and uncompromising affair with expressive bas lines and guitar riffs that are sharp and which occasionally verge on the discordant to increase the more aggressive side of the band. But at the half-way mark, in marches a brief melodic section to give the song a completely different feel, even if the more extreme instrumentation returns until the end.
To their credit, the quintet are also willing to experiment a bit and on ‘Tethys Mix’, they allow Janzen to stand front and centre, creating a quiet, but brooding and cinematic composition that then brings in really bold electronics later in the piece to add to the introduction of the metallic instruments. I’m not sure it’s my favourite piece, but it shows the intent within the band to not just offer ten identical tracks. Some might shout ‘filler’, but instead I find it an interesting change of pace. Equally worthy of note is the more atmospheric and slightly more progressive sounding ‘Long Street’, which closes the album with some style, despite lacking that standout melody I was hoping for.
Mind you, if you’re looking for melodies, there are lots of places to look here, such as the opener ‘Tides Disharmonized’ which begins so abruptly that you’re left momentarily reeling. But as it settles, in come the synth-soaked riffs and melodic chorus, complete with fast-picked, cold riffing, and an overall presence that is hard not to enjoy, even the unexpected dalliance with Gothic trappings somewhere in the middle. The early groove within ‘The Path’ is delightful too, it must be said, as is the synth-heavy ‘Haven’-esque chorus that cuts through the muscular groove nicely.
Most surprising however, is ‘Autumns Spring’ which manages to blend whimsical and gentle cinematic filmscore-like synths with heavy riffing, and melodic death metal burliness. In fact, if Credic were to follow this path more on their next outing, I’d be all over it like a rash – I really like this song and it’s probably the stand-out track on the album.
Overall, I must conclude that ‘Vermillion Oceans’ is a very decent, enjoyable album. Despite it not being particularly original and lacking that knock-out punch, I have no doubt that it will find favour with fans of the more modern, melodic end of the melodic death metal genre. It is well-crafted, well-performed, and delivers in terms of heaviness and memorability, although I’d have liked even more in terms of anthemic material seeing as the guys are clearly capable of such things. As such, Credic’s sophomore release, ‘Vermillion Oceans’ comes with a recommendation from me – ignore the incongruous cover artwork and take a listen to the music within, safe in the knowledge that it’s pretty darn good.
The Score of Much Metal: 79%
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