Review Summary: Massively forgotten, but its influence lives
The period between 1995 and 2000 was marked by two contradictory tendencies in extreme music: on one side, with groove thrash, death metal and metallic hardcore taking the lead in underground America, the genre was becoming harder than ever; on the other, the genre was obviously mellowing due to the mainstream popularity of the post-grunge alternative metal wave, whose worst contributors would initiate the scene colloquially known as “mallcore”. In the following decade, the first of these waves would morph into the so-called New Wave of American Heavy Metal. This album is one of its most notable influences.
Vision of Disorder started as an aggressive and socio-political metallic hardcore outfit in Long Island in 1992, becoming popular in the underground especially after their EP Still and their inclusion on the New York’s Hardest compilation album. In 1996, after signing a deal with Roadrunner Records’ underground hardcore label Supersoul, VOD would release their self-titled debut full-length. If anyone cares, one shall say that it is a masterpiece on its own, surprisingly aggressive and with a strong socio-political underlying message on most songs. However, I personally would put their 1998 sophomore release Imprint above it, for plenty of reasons, the most obvious of them being its strong later influence on later metalcore. Do you want to know what VOD sound like? Think Trivium, without the 2000s melodeath part, and with a better vocalist and lyrics. It circles around this.
First, let’s start with the highlights. Tim Williams’s voice is terrific, he alternates between black metallish screaming (as he’s doing most of the time), clean singing (which he tends to use in the choruses, even if there are exceptions), and deep death metallish unclean vocals (such as in the end of “Landslide”). The way he alternates between the vocal tones is also amazing, especially on the brilliantly performed track “Colorblind”, where chilling melody lives side-by-side with intense aggression. As if Williams alone wasn’t enough, the band decided to bring one of the most memorable metal duets ever: Phil Anselmo, the legend in person, shows up for the impressive song “By the River”, lyrically one of the most accomplished songs ever (“We walk alone/Exposed to just blood and bones/Scouring graveyards/An empty ritual for the hordes”). As we’re talking in the subject of lyrics, they are somewhat charged, dealing with themes such as darkness, misery, struggle, and social issues.
The guitar work in this album is fairly beyond what you’d expect from a metallic hardcore band. Sure, there are neither guitar solos nor dark Integrity-like melodies, but it gets pretty close. Kennedy and Baumbach give the listener a vast array of thrashy riffs, dark melodies (as said before, nothing that tops Integrity on the matter) and brutal breakdowns, such as in “By the River”. Also remarkable is the already-mentioned sudden and repetitive transition from pure aggression to pure melody in “Colorblind”. Of course here one must mention that, very unlike the band’s first album, the production isn’t up to what it should be. The main victims of these lower production standards are, however, the drums.
And that’s pity, because the drumming is quite decent. It’s not impressively brutal, nor technical, but without emphasizing one aspect it’s very solid overall. It is slow when it should be slow, it is brutal when it should be brutal, it is mid-paced when it should be mid-paced. While I personally believe that their self-titled album has better drumming, I cannot complain about Cohen’s drumming in this album.
Flaws? As my rating tells, this album is has almost none serious flaws. First of all I, and as I already pointed out before, the production isn’t good and it may work against the drumming. Second, the song “Up in You”. If there is one song of the album that one should avoid, that’s it. It just sounds boring overall.
In conclusion, VOD’s 1998 second full-length attack gives the listener a fine, almost perfect metallic hardcore experience, and features the elements that would characterize many later metalcore bands. While VOD invented none of those elements, they are the ones who should be credited (among other bands, of course) for blending all those elements in one singular sonority. And, let’s just say, with better results than many (if not most) of the bands who followed.
Top 5 tracks of the album:
2. By the River
1. Locust of the Dead Earth