Review Summary: Perfect storm
There are several ways to categorize extreme metal, in order to create multiple sub-genres, within genres, to comfortably place bands inside boxes and label them with nanotechnological precision. It's our way of defining styles surgically and speeding up the research process, so we don't take too long to select our meal, within a menu with a wide range of offers. Among these different style approaches, there is one that derives from the frantic, hyperactive, overwhelming speed of execution. This approach has roots in bands such as Cryptopsy, Hate Eternal, Hour of Penance, among other acts that think and perform at warp speed. When I heard the band's first singles, I instantly put Vitriol inside that supersonic niche, thinking to myself: "Damn, these guys are taking Hate Eternal's formula to another level". What struck me the most wasn't the mere speed of execution, but how this breakneck pace could work in benefit of the song and not the other way around. It became clear that I was listening to a product of its time.
Formed in 2013, with one EP and a single in hand (whose songs were all re-recorded and included here), Portland's Vitriol have a clear vision of who they are, and where they want to go. It's that kind of band that doesn't hide its influences or waste time on candy sensibilities. The whole approach is completely in-your-face, without beating about the bush. That's the feeling we get when we enter To Bathe From the Throat of Cowardice
and come across the killer opener "The Parting of a Neck", an F5 tornado that devastates everything in its path, as if Nergal joined forces with Erik Rutan to form the perfect storm. Portland's calamity continues its course with "Crowned in Retaliation", which kicks off expectantly, waiting for the right moment to deliver its fatal blows, either in the form of its thrilling solo or through the fiercest chunks, that hits us at overwhelming speed. This devastating cyclone will show no signs of slowing down in "Legacy of Contempt" and "I Drown Nightly", the former being the track that most resembles Hate Eternal, the latter featuring one of the album's best moments, with its powerful mid-paced riff that seems to sprout from the cross between Bloodbath and mid-'90s Morbid Angel.
We're only halfway through the album and it looks like we've already been completely trampled on, a sign that could indicate two things: either I'm getting too old for these wanderings, or the album is a steamroller. Both are correct, but I prefer to focus only on the second alternative to underline that many people may find this album exhausting and excessive, namely those who are not used to navigate within this kind of sound storm. In these cases, the best option is to listen in small doses, so as not to lose focus.
If songs like "The Rope Calls You Brother", "Victim" or "Hive Lungs" keep the F5 going, the band is also concerned about finding some balance in their delivery. "A Gentle Gift" and "Violence, the Worthy Truth" both have mid-paced moments that create this subtle balance. We never get a chance to get into the eye of the storm, but at least we start spinning inside an F4, which always gives us some relief, even if only for a short time.
It's completely crushed, with several fractured limbs, that we've come to the closing track "Pain Will Define Their Death", my favourite song from the album and probably the one that will do the most damage in the band's shows. Its main feature is its blackened approach, which sometimes reminds me of Anaal Nathrakh, and the final looping that closes the album perfectly, as if we were a moribund victim giving his last look at the storm, which is now fading on the horizon, before dying.
To Bathe From the Throat of Cowardice
is a perfect storm that leaves a devastating trail behind. Its massive degree of destruction will be remembered from years to come, and its story told by the surviving victims. It now remains to be seen whether the few left will have the strength, and solid shelter, to withstand the next onslaught.