It’s been 11 years since the last album from Arizona’s Vehemence. That’s not quite as epic a wait as we had for the latest At the Gates release, but still… it’s a long time. Lucky for them, the melodic death metal landscape hasn’t changed too drastically in that time. For the most part, it relies on the same components it always has. On the band’s new, fourth full–length, Forward Without Motion, they adhere to the core melodic sensibilities of the genre which makes for a better, more focused effort.
There’s a lot in common between Forward and the band’s second album, God Was Created — which really plays to the band’s advantage. The musicianship is well-versed, and the band does a nice job sprinkling moments of brutal death metal in amongst their melodic delivery. Vocalist Nathan Gearhart sounds like a deeper, more intense version of Johan Hegg, adding a punishing layer to the overall sound. His style fits particularly well in the darker, more brooding tracks like “Jim the Prophet” and “A Dark Figure in the Distance.”
The band is extremely tight throughout, and pushes their playing to a level that thoroughly surpasses previous efforts. Whether it’s Andy Schroeder’s double kick drumming or the intricate lead-rhythm work from guitarists Bjorn Dannov and Kyle Moeller that surfaces in many of the songs, the band sounds more together than they’ve ever been on record. Take the early, eight-and-a-half-minute cut, “Murdered by the Earth,” where the many shifts between aggressively fast riffs and the interwoven melodicism are executed flawlessly. With the longer run-time, this track has an epic scope much like their grandiose Finnish melodic death metal counterparts.
Also notable here is the band’s focus throughout Forward Without Motion. Vehemence’s last release, 2004’s Helping the World to See, was melodic at its core, but focused more on the death metal side and even blurred its lines, at times, into metal-core. It was good for a listen or two but ended up feeling lackluster; the band wasted too much effort attempting to be extreme simply for extremity‘s sake. That’s not the case here; this time out, they’ve got their heads in the right place. When the band gets harsh — as we see in the vicious beatdown of “In the Shadows We Dwell” — it feels fluid, never forced. That’s a definite step up this time out.
The album’s not without its faults, though. The two closing tracks — “She Fucks Like She’s Alive” and “There Are So Many Reasons to Give Up on Religion” — could and should have been either cut or redone for originality’s sake. Unfortunately, both sound like they were lifted straight off of early Black Dahlia Murder albums. On this otherwise extremely well executed album, that feels like a less-than-optimal send-off. But these two tracks aside, Forward Without Motion is a surprisingly fun listen and a good reawakening for Vehemence.