Vulvodynia
Entabeni


3.2
good

Review

by Benjamin Jack STAFF
July 9th, 2024 | 12 replies


Release Date: 07/05/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Unexplained vaginal pain got you down?

Currently taking shape as a technical and lightly slam-infused deathcore outfit, Vulvodynia’s present sonic cocktail is the most animated their output has been in ten years as a band. Having ejected co-founder/ vocalist Duncan Bentley last year following a campaign of violence toward drummer Thomas Hughes, the outfit have managed to find a replacement in guitarist Lwandile Prusent, here performing frontman duties for the very first time. This, Vulvodynia’s sixth full-length, certainly shows a level of energy and dynamism that was in somewhat short supply on their previous two releases, but also pushes a deliberate, yet slightly disappointing sense of uncharacteristic finesse to the forefront of the experience. There’s far less gruesome imagery, way more technicality, a more polished production style, and an even greater leaning toward deathcore tropes, resulting in a release that doubles down on the trademark vigour, but also one that lets a lot of the established savagery bleed out all over the studio floor. We’re far from the days of Cognizant Castigation now, and although there are flirtatious stolen glances at that good old fashioned brutishness, the passage of time has reduced Vulvodynia to a competent, diverting, but unexciting technical deathcore quartet. Their esteemed position amidst the corpse-pile of deathcore is most certainly well-earned, with their constant touring, evocative thematic content and always heavy-as-f*ck music. Well-earned and, up until now, well-maintained.

Thankfully, the sound of Entabeni is still huge, and is a good deal more entertaining than its predecessor, Praenuntius Infiniti. The album is rollercoaster-swift and full of widdly guitar solos, technically impressive riffing and a handful of rousing breakdowns. The frequent instances of chugga chugga punctuated by pinch harmonics and sweeps do occasionally stray too far into ‘Windows error message’ territory, but these moments are generally well-orchestrated and don’t feel quite as gimmicky as they otherwise would. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the more symphonic components of tracks like ‘Devil Tree’, or the operatic back-up vocals of ‘The Rand Lord’. Such inclusions are hardly unheard of within the genre, but here, amidst the barbarism of the release’s more savage cuts and the constant scorching fretwork, they feel distractingly trite. Nevertheless, ‘The Rand Lord’, despite its shortcomings, actually succeeds on the whole thanks to the soaring guitars and contained yet epic atmosphere, even though it feels slightly novel for a Vulvodynia song. Similarly, closer ‘Generational Segregation’, one of Entabeni’s finest moments, is an atypically rich and memorable death rattle for the album, full of chunky grooves and brash death metal riffs that nimbly fluctuate as the almost-5 minute track unfolds. It’s a compelling summary of the band’s current style in which everything feels honed to perfection, performs as it ought to, and synchronises excellently.

Although the style found on Entabeni sidesteps expectations for the band somewhat, vocalist Prusent does a serviceable job in this musical landscape, his delicious lows and rasping highs the ideal complement to this frantically animated stylistic shift. Nonetheless, his abilities can’t quite measure up (or down) to the world-ending hideousness of Bentley’s gutterals, forgoing another element of harshness from the music itself. This is an issue which is emphasized by the vocal track sitting a little too low in the mix on certain cuts, along with an overproduction that renders the LP slightly too clean-sounding. This isn’t a particularly unusual trait for technical metal records as it adds fidelity to the more complex musical passages, but it also sands down a lot of the explosiveness that could have otherwise elevated this release. On ‘Mamlambo’, for instance, which features a satisfyingly thunderous main riff, the abrasiveness of the guitar tone is diluted by just how crisp the effect is, sapping a lot of power and weight from the songwriting in an instant. The breakdowns frequently fall victim to the production too, with ‘Isandlwana’ standing out in this regard thanks to a simplistic outro that feels underwritten rather than exclamation-point punchy. A grimier finish could have added impact to the straightforward nature of the finale, but because of the polish, it simply doesn’t serve as the cataclysmic final throes that it should be. The production does assist in lending definition to the solos and grander passages, however, with the title track standing out notably in this regard; the fluxes between sweeps and chugs are nicely juxtaposed as Prusent’s vocals wash over the experience.

I’m aware I have directed a lot of criticism toward Entabeni in the above paragraphs, but it still remains a convincing bounce-back for the band; a delirious white-knuckle experience, always enjoyable for what it is. Aspects of the songwriting certainly feel less timely and a little too egregiously omnipresent, but the conviction of Entabeni’s aggression effectively aggrandises most of these elements with glint-eyed menace. Prusent’s formidable vocal dexterity is a fine fit for the outfit's more pervasive tech aspects; nasty and versatile, equal parts sourness and fury. True, he can’t quite match up to Bentley for sheer savagery, but the heightened technicality is supremely served by his varied and vicious sound. Solo wankery and breakneck riffing pepper the project, and even though the production style hurts the overall experience, the songwriting itself is laced with knuckle-cracking teeth-gritters and violence-baiting hooks. It manages to be consistently engaging and satisfyingly extreme, even though the gore fetishization so associated with Vulvodynia’s music has been recalled and substituted with more folkloric, fantastical themes. The album certainly feels more defined, but much less crushingly brutal and far less individual, doing its thing with plenty of focus but a great deal less character. In short, if you want deathcore, you could do a lot worse. If you want Vulvodynia, you could do a lot better.



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user ratings (22)
3.1
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
July 9th 2024


1624 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Found myself enjoying this less and less on every repeat listen. It works and it's fine, but even though it keeps threatening to it just doesn't hit hard enough

Tundra
July 9th 2024


9862 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Some decent riffs but other than that zzz

Spec
July 10th 2024


39704 Comments


That summary tho.

Michal4Srnka
July 10th 2024


225 Comments


Album art looks sick

I don't expect much from this

bloc
July 10th 2024


70400 Comments


Yeah this went into one ear and out the other

Silly band name too

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
July 10th 2024


1624 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Yeah the art is pretty hard but it feels more like something venom prison or thy art would use. Really wish they’d rewind their vibe/ image back about 5 years

NightOnDrunkMountain
Contributing Reviewer
July 10th 2024


701 Comments


Heard a couple of tracks from this and wasn't convinced, I have to give it another go

Well written!

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 10th 2024


19023 Comments


this is totally me when unexplained vaginal pain has me down

Hawks
July 10th 2024


90597 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Gonna give this a jam now.

memnite
July 10th 2024


118 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah this sure sounds like These Guys

Hawks
July 10th 2024


90597 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Not bad.

pengui
July 12th 2024


133 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

There's nothing exciting about this release unfortunately. A bit of a step down from some of their earlier stuff which was fine. Might sound better live?



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