Review Summary: Accessible but not too far afield. Relentless riffs and menacing vocals make this one a keeper.
Quo Vadis are much more than just a band with an intriguing Latin name. On their 2000 release Day Into Night they created one eminently appealing death metal album that evades the standard classifications of “technical”, “melodic”, or “brutal”. That isn’t to say it’s a particularly experimental disc either. No, it straddles these lines while carving out its own riff-driven, thrash-influenced style.
Unlike some of their European colleagues in the genre, Quo Vadis rarely resort to uninspired power chord progressions underneath rehashed Boston melodies. Their guitars aren’t downtuned and their tone is tight and punching, letting the intricacies of their riffs come through unblemished. The drums oscillate between excellent and adequate, and the bass seems a little under appreciated but hey, I’ll forgive that one. Topping it off we have Arie Itman’s vocals, which have become some of my favorite in the genre for achieving the unachievable: a death growl that preserves the intelligibility of the lyrics. “Hunter Killer” just wouldn’t be the same song without that menacing bark: “Hunter- killer / Blinded by our hate, deafened to cries / Hunter-killer / Only one has the right to survive.” Admittedly, they’re not the most poetic lyrics, but if you suspend aesthetic judgment and just enjoy the brutality they work well.
As far as highlights go, my award goes to the crushing and epic “On the Shores of Ithaka”. It contains probably the album’s only melody that has any chance of getting stuck in your head. (You still won’t be able to whistle it though). At just under 7 minutes, it’s the longest track here, but you hardly notice it with the blistering drums and the most thoughtful soloing yet heard. Close behind I’d put the just-discussed “Hunter-Killer” and “Dysgenics”. The latter features a lengthy intro where drum fills shine and guitars reminisce about early Metallica. Then Itman interrupts with the most threatening “Alright! Let’s go!” I’ve ever heard. Finally, its worth mentioning “Let it Burn”, mostly for the devilish refrain in the bare-bones chorus.
In many ways this is a back-to-basics album. They don’t try to reinvent the wheel and melodically, there’s nothing even hummable let alone noteworthy. The album testifies to how far a metal album can get without anything flashier than nuanced, precise riffing and authentic, powerful vocals. All totaled it makes for a regular in my metal rotation.