Vassafor - To The Death review

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Band: Vassafor
Album: To The Death
Release date: August 2020

01. To The Death
02. Egregore Rising
03. Eyrie
04. Black Talon
05. The Burning Ìthyr
06. Emanation From The Abyss
07. Singularity

What happens to black metal that gets old and is left in the sun down under? It rots.

With most of their material being released in the 2010s, it's easy to lose focus of just how old Vassafor are. Being formed around 1994 and releasing their first demo in 1997, it would take a while for them to be up and running again. The duo is centered around Phil Kusabs, who has played with everyone from Ulcerate to Blasphemy to Temple Nightside to Diocletian, and is completed by Malevolence (NZL)'s Ben Parker on drums. Being as out of touch with New Zealand's scene other than Ulcerate, I asked Jamie in an interview what bands from the country we should check out. The very first band he named was Vassafor.

And I didn't lie about this being rotten as hell. Though I did somewhat lie about this being really black metal. But whatever it is, it feels old and putrid, and definitely something that would feel more at home in the late 80s and early 90s, were it not for the production being too good for those times. The blend of black/death/thrash is still very distinctive as much as one can isolate something more early 90s Norway or late 80s Florida sounding, mostly due to how they manage to play with both atmospherics and riffs. The most distinctive feat of this album is how dizzying it feels, like a maelstrom of riffs, as much as this sentence can make it seem like a tech death album, it genuinely feels like it traps you and covers you in rot, and the putridity is so enveloping that you can barely hear the vocals.

Said vocals being so low in the mix is not something you encounter that often, feeling more like grainy incantations than any growl or shriek that would feel more familiar, even though there are bits where there are some guest vocalists joining in, like on "Emanation From The Abyss", but the vast majority is one endless monster. The album feels monstrous not because it feels grandiose, but because it does not. It feels less direct and less conceivable. If Kusabs wanted to make some Lovecraftian music, he'd be damn good at it, because it is so rare for an album to be eerie in the way that To The Death does. And while there are some ambiental sections or touches of doom metal, the atmosphere is achieved solely through the riffs, the vocals, and how these are mixed.

And riffs there are, almost like a continuous stream of riffs, and with an album clocking at over an hour in runtime, there is some bloat, but the band had already pulled off a double album before, so To The Death's long runtime does add a bit to the experience in a weird way. There are a few riffs or vocal lines that does get pulled back enough times to bring a bit of familiarity and memorability in the more desolate places of this album, and whose repetition feels almost welcome at times in an album that both hypnotizes and confronts. But overall I wouldn't call any moment of this album as memorable, mostly because of how the riffs and their atmosphere work towards a different goal. And while an album more direct would've made the melodies more memorable, it wouldn't have made the experience as such.

And this couldn't have been made by anyone other than someone who lived and saw metal rotting and putting that rot in audio form.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Production: 8


Written on 17.08.2020 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 24 users
21.08.2020 - 00:55
doesn't use salt
Every time I listen to them I like it and then it's like my mind is whiped. I really need to relisten to the last two records too. I really like their blend, even though it's not suuuper unique maybe.
I agree they have a slight creepy aura to them and I think that's pretty rare for blackened death bands.

First cover art from them I don't like though
You are the hammer, I am the nail
building a house in the fire on the hill

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