Review Summary: A small step or a giant leap?
When asked by a friend to describe Vektor’s Outer Isolation
, I found myself stumbling for words, alternately praising the band’s unique brand of futuristic space-thrash while tripping over needless references to science fiction tropes. It took a few moments before I was able to come back down to Earth and explain, as simply and as clearly as I could, my feelings regarding this Tempe, AZ quartet:
Then it was back to the terrible sci-fi metaphors.
Since 2006’s aptly titled Demolition
, Vektor's interstellar mix of extreme metal styles has set the band apart from their fellow revivalists. While many of their contemporaries are content with simply bringing thrash metal back to its former glory, Vektor takes the genre into heretofore unexplored territory. Outer Isolation
is the latest stage in the band’s evolution, and while it may not be as big of a leap as 2009’s Black Future
, it certainly solidifies Vektor’s position at the vanguard of the neo-thrash movement.
With Outer Isolation
, Vektor have further refined their already formidable and razor-sharp sound. Like Black Future
before it, the album combines brand new compositions with re-recorded Demolition
-era material that pushes the band ever closer towards perfection. Album opener “Cosmic Cortex” slowly unfolds with clean, undulating guitar and bass lines before exploding outward in a burst of cosmic “Also Sprach Zarathustra” chords, eventually firing off into hyperspace through a stream of light-speed riffage and blackened breaks accentuated by Blake Anderson’s tasteful blasts. While Vektor are never lacking in speed, the band is at their most menacing on more deliberately-paced tracks like “Dying World,” which foretells of mankind’s inevitable self-destruction. Buildings crumble beneath the weight of Frank Chin’s rumbling bass as the dystopian nightmare takes shape; Dave Disanto’s shrieks - equal parts Ihsahn and intergalactic space-banshee - drive the terrified populace from their homes and into the burning streets; as the situation escalates, the band is whipped into a frenzy that continues until the city is reduced to a scorched hulk of concrete and steel.
Despite the futuristic/dystopian motifs present throughout Outer Isolation
, Vektor draws from a distinguished pedigree of 20th century music, progressive and otherwise. Their logo and science fiction themes pay homage to Voivod, while the melodic guitar interplay between Disanto and Nelson (most notably on the title track and “Fast Paced Society”) calls to mind the layered arrangements of 8 bit video game music. In keeping with their tradition of re-recording early material, Vektor breathes new life into old classics like “Venus Project,” which has the band switching styles between the jazzy, often bizarre guitar arpeggios of King Crimson and the stomping tech-thrash that characterized 1980’s Coroner. The track is a vastly superior replication of its 2006 host song, benefiting from a laser precision that was largely absent in its rougher, demo form.
In fact, the band sounds better on Outer Isolation
than ever before. Black Future
was well-mixed, but on this latest effort, Vektor simply sounds fuller. The guitars trade a slight amount of bite for a generally beefier tone; leads are impeccably performed and impossibly clean; the bass manages to be audible without sacrificing that all-important “punch”; and the percussion, while less snappy this time around, hits harder on all fronts. Every band member is at their absolute best on Outer Isolation
, whether it’s through the mind-bending bridge of “Echoless Chamber” or the criminally tight riffing on the new incarnation of “Tetrastructural Minds.”
The inevitable question remains: is Outer Isolation
the giant leap forward that most fans were expecting" Not quite. But at the same time, the album is no mere baby step. While Outer Isolation
may not be the perfect space-odyssey that many anticipated, it is a more-than-worthy addition to Vektor’s impressive catalogue, and cements the band’s place at the forefront of the thrash revival - in the 21st century and beyond. On the very first track, the band beams a message to the world of heavy metal: “To resist is to be destroyed.” You’d be wise to lay down your arms and welcome our new thrash overlords.