Were you afraid that by signing to a larger record label Vile Creature was going to soften its edges? That the music would fall into more generic genre trappings? I would venture a single glance at the cover to Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! would quash any and all of those concerns. After two full lengths and an EP of crushing sludge doom that I could appreciate from a distance, here is the album that refuses to be held at arm’s length, that forces your eyes open to gaze upon its exquisite, grotesque beauty.
It feels difficult to wrangle with a band that has such a passionate fanbase. The combined sonic explosion of Vic (drums, vocals) and KW (guitars, vocals) crafts a blend of heart-wrenching filthy, scuzzed out doom that rails against the evil and inequality of the world, laying bare in their anguished screams and caterwauls of sound the pain of being isolated, of being outside, raging against the fist of oppression. 2015’s A Steady Descent Into The Soil calls out the band’s credo within its first track “I: A Constant Yearning To Leave”:
“We “wretched” folk / we embattled / watch on as / the blood lets your body…my body / won’t succumb / to pressure / to conform”
Listening again now my body, my soul reacts differently to those words, to the music than it did when I was first exposed to it. And so the question I have been reckoning with as I come back up through Vile Creature’s discography to Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! is this: Is it the music that’s changed, allowing me to experience it more directly, or have I changed, changed enough that I can open myself up to what the band is preaching?
Let’s take away the existential questions for a moment and focus on the music. Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! immediately feels larger, more world encompassing that anything before it. “Harbinger of Nothing” may be the least surprising track, seeing as it made its debut on last year’s Metal Swim 2 compilation from Adult Swim, but using it to open the album works perfectly, showcasing the way the duo instantly create a massive pocket of groove that opens to a chasm of drone against a forlorn clean guitar around the six-minute mark. The drumming is incredibly expressive as it slowly accentuates and accelerates the mood of the piece before diving back into a savage riff to close out the final verses.
“When The Path Is Unclear” opens with an even more dismal feeling, accentuated by a vocal delivery from Vic that borders on black metal rasping, and makes the mood even more harrowing as it reverberates in seemingly endless waves. When the crunch of the heavier moment comes, it arrives within a squall of noise and an increase in tempo that shakes the song to its foundations. As the song and its follow-up “You Who Have Never Slept” move through their paces, you’re left with the feeling of a band completely confident in their abilities, songwriting honed to a laser’s edge to keep every minute of each track thrilling and emotional, focused and without an ounce of bloat.
And then the final two tracks which comprise the album’s title arrive, and you realize Vile Creature haven’t even started yet.
“Glory, Glory” opens with a gorgeous vocal arrangement courtesy of guest vocalist Laurel Minnes backed by ringing clean guitar chords, and then stays that way, ethereally moving along the wisps of guitar and sparse ambient keyboard passages before literally crashing into the mountain that is “Apathy Took Helm!”. The choir elements continue to hook into you as the slab of riffs and feedback pile higher and higher, bringing what is the best doom album of the year to a close.
I’ll probably continue to wrestle with how my growth as a person affects how I perceive music, but there is no question that with Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! Vile Creature have served up an uncompromising sonic vision that is as revelatory and conflicting as only music that is pure of conviction and purpose can be. Each new listen opens new facets, and the darkness found within is both terrifying and beautiful.