While the last few years may have been dominated by talk of just how many great death metal releases we’ve gotten (and who could blame anyone for saying so), looking to the future, I feel that there is a change in the winds coming: 2018 is going to be the year of doom metal. With releases on the horizon from Fórn, Body Void, and Thou, to say nothing of genre stalwarts like Mournful Congregation, there’s a lot to get excited over in the world of all things slow and heavy. Setting the tone for all these releases to come, and setting the bar pretty high at that, is Cast of Static and Smoke, the new release from Canadian duo Vile Creature.
Whether you know of Vile Creature from their propensity for writing emotionally harrowing and heavy doom metal, or for the absolutely undeserved grief the band takes, you have almost certainly heard of them. Cast of Static and Smoke sees Vile Creature take big steps forward from their first two releases, 2015’s A Steady Descent Into the Soil and the 18 minute standalone track A Pessimistic Doomsayer. The first of the band’s material to not be recorded in the basement of an abandoned schoolhouse in Ontario, Cast of Static was recorded live at Signaturetone Studios in Minneapolis (where the rest of the band’s material was also previously mixed and mastered). The quality of the instrumentation here is astounding. Guitar tracks are massively thick, yet are also capable of the breathy ambiance that makes moments like the intro of opener “Water, Tinted Gold and Tainted Copper” so sublime. The drum kit gets the proper treatment it deserves as well, each element cementing its place in the wall of sound the band conjures up. Of note as well are the robust vocals of drummer Vic, whose performance compared to previous releases has gone from good to great, adding more depth and heft to their register.
In addition to enlisting recording help, Cast of Static also features an A-List roster of guest appearances to bolster the two-piece band. “Forests, Subsists as a Tomb” includes a guest guitar solo from James Claypool of black metal heroes False, and “Water, Tinted Gold and Tainted Copper” features vocals from the mighty Chris Colohan of Sect and Cursed. This opening up on the part of the band showcases one of Vile Creature’s core tenets: the need to foster community. Vile Creature embody the idea that heavy metal is a place for everyone, having long built a name for themselves based on their use of themes of anti-oppression and queer positivity in their music. Cast of Static and Smoke is a celebration of the kind of camaraderie that makes this ideal possible. People of all different backgrounds put their all into making something great, and the end result shines all the more for that.
The most striking departure from previous efforts for Vile Creature, however, is the fact that Cast of Static is a concept album. Rather than drawing from personal and emotional experiences for lyrical inspiration, the new album is lyrically based on a short story penned by guitarist KW, a post-apocalyptic tale of the android machines that serve humanity by carrying out the tasks necessary to maintain life in an irradiated world. An accident during one job causes the machine’s limiters to cease functioning, causing the only thing keeping them tied to their human masters to be nullified, and the machines flee captivity. Along the way, the machines learn about the finality of time, the price of free will, and where they might stand in the grand scheme of a future to come. It’s an endlessly intriguing story that gives that much more depth to the music that serves as its guideposts.
Vile Creature’s Cast of Static and Smoke is quite literally the whole package. Musically riveting, and with the backbone of a harrowing story to underlie the experience, every aspect of this album has been knocked out of the park. Vile Creature have created an experience, and one that absolutely shouldn’t be missed out on.