Vehemence: Nathan Gearhart (vocals); Bjorn Dannon (guitar, piano); John Chavez (guitar); Mark Kozuback (bass guitar, background vocals); Andy Schroeder (drums).
Generally when you think about the major performers in American death metal, you think of bands like Deicide, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, and others. Basically, bands who've been at it for a while. But recently a new group of artists have come about that are shedding new light on the genre. One such band is Arizona's Vehemence.
The five piece really made a name for themselves in 2002 with the release of God Was Created, a landmark concept album that should go down as one of the better albums in death metal history. Two years later they followed it up with their third album, Helping the World to See.
In many ways, Vehemence is a traditional, no-frills death metal band in the sense that what you see is basically what you get. However, they have much more to offer than just brutality. Vehemence is one of those bands who are able to add very melodic aspects to their music, and not at the sake of their overall heaviness. Vocalist Nathan Gearheart also brings a bit of variety to the band's sound, as he mixes up guttural growls with mid-ranged screams.
Musically the band is a treat as well. As I mentioned earlier, they very easily add melodic aspects to their sound, which makes their sound more varied than a lot of death metal bands. But fret not - they write plenty of riffs that will beat the hell outta you, and you'll find that out right from the beginning with "By Your Bedside", an absolutely thrashy death metal assault. The band isn't afraid to mix things up in terms of tempo either, with songs like "Kill For God" that could be considered ballads if they weren't so darn heavy.
Helping the World to See is such a solid album because it contains so many killer tracks. In addition to the aforementioned "By Your Bedside", there's "Spirit of the Soldier", one of my favorite songs on the album that manages to be both chaotically heavy and painstakingly heartfelt all in the confines of one 5 and a half minute song. "We Are All Dying", the album's closer, is a full-speed ahead race to the finish that would be a fantastic conclusion to the album had there not been a bonus track after the fact. But of course that doesn't mean "Her Beautiful Eyes" is a slouch - not by any means.
The unfortunate thing about this album is that it lags a bit in terms of song-writing. Don't get me wrong - these guys make some damn good music and Gearheart writes good lyrics, but some of the songs suffer from what I like to call "Wesley Willis Syndrome", where the chorus essentially consists of a single repeated line. "Kill For God", "Trinity Broadcasting (Know Your Enemy)", and "To the Taste" seem to have bad cases of this. Also, "What Could Go Wrong?" seems to be almost a retooled version of "To the Taste".
Lyrically, this album may scare off a few people. But anyone buying a death metal album shouldn't be expecting Stryper-esque lyrics to begin with anyway. Although the songs aren't as violent or blasphemic as those featured in God Was Created, there's still some stuff that may frighten you off if you read too deeply into it - namely anti-religion stuff as well as some murderous acts. So yeah, there's your warning.
Perhaps the best thing about Helping the World to See is it's price tag - Metal Blade Records shipped this badboy with an MSRP of $9.99. It can be had for less at many other places. Quite a steal if you ask me.
Death metal fans looking for something new should look no further than Vehemence. Although they already have three full-length albums to their name, they're still relatively new to the game and show a ton of potential. Their next album will definitely be a major point in their career, as Nathan Gearheart recently left the band due to family and work commitments. He was replaced by Sean Vandegrift of From a Second Story Window, who aren't quite metal. Plus Gearheart was the band's main lyricist, so it'll be interesting to see what the future holds for this band.