Frail Vessel – Frail Vessel (2014) — REVIEW


Frail Vessel - Frail Vessel - cover

UPDATE 14/07/2014: Frail Vessel have informed me that they are active again and had only taken a break. They are putting out this recording on tape soon.

You may recall that one of my favorite releases last year was a 22 minute demo cassette/cd of grind-violence by Newfoundland’s Frail Vessel. It had a blistering tempo and striking vocals, structured by strong, gratifying writing; as well as equally awesome subject matter. Something that left an impression.

Well earlier in February this three piece ended their short existence with a final self-titled digital release that continues confidently; it is sharper with less chaos, a change in vocals and lighter on the powerviolence with a leaden foot on the grind pedal.

This is another slayer guys. On the heels of such a strong demo it keeps pace. Remaining informed by Discordance Axis and Insect Warfare this last release sees Frail Vessel move forward losing no momentum.

Oh and it’s free. Wicked, free Canadian grind…

The main difference to note is the previous vocalist Matt was no longer with the band during this recording (his contribution was from March 2013 – August 2013) after moving westward.

I really liked what his style added to their already monstrous sound. Power with a bit of exasperated distance. Like he was fighting to overwhelm the avalanche of noise surrounding him.

However Nick does a very admirable job in his place with a few key difference and these overall minor reformation makes leaves nothing lost, only changed.

Vocally the self-titled is smeared between the hoarse, gruff yells from both Robbie and Nick, while the majority of the grind is coloured by Nick’s peaking screams, they shear straight into the fore. I doubt they’re meant to be an approximation to the unhinged, frantic, faded howls and screams of Matt.

When not in a more deathly rasp Nick’s screams are a bit less draining, a bit louder compared to Matt, and sometimes drift into strangulated alterations. So they’re different and varied, I’m not sure if this will be lost on first listen for some.

Some of it could be the way it was recorded this time because elements are noticeably more balanced, the drumming and guitar smash together but without the crackle and over distortion. I actually liked it on the demo for the material and the rawness of the spliced grind-violence. The new self-titled here is however suited for this increment more of clarity, leaving breathing room without dampening the bass or drums which remain loud.

All elements otherwise are still in place with Robbie on bass and backing vocals, Adam killing the drums once again. With the drop in abrupt powerviolence bursts there’s also less descents into slow, dreadfully heavy and dissonant slams. Nothing as slow as “C.R.F.” at least but like “Unearthing” hits something close to “Witch Accusation”.

The emphasis shifts moderately to another focus – that of consistency and whiplash inducing grind riffs that evoke a bit of death on occasion.

Oh and if you can’t tell immediately by the song titles and the lyrics (available on their bandcamp) the source of influence is retained and deepened. Overall it’s a good even spread too. Bits of astrophysics, cryptology, and futurism, games like Zone of the Enders, Metal Gear Solid, which melts into references to Neon Genesis Evangelion et al.

Then Canadian grindcore as a whole, socio-political commentary, machinations regarding the  Antikythera Mechanism, along with more enigmatic or subjective sci-fi fantasy.

For instance the first song “Gravity Well” is a vivid description of what might happen if you were caught in just that. In fact instrumentally it’s pretty close to what the micro-moment of violence would sound like slowed down. A crippling start to this with some ugly vocals near the last third.

And “Invulnerable” not only doles out flaying rhythms coupled to perfectly analogous drumming,  but a dirty death-like tremolo bridge too. Thrashing high-end screaming knocks shit around nicely too.

The mad descent of “Dungeon Crawler”  brings together darken standard paths with a good deal of their own power, forcing it into a blunt object which makes shit end fast. You can probably guess what “Gray Fox” refers to. It’s another wild run without a stop where the bassists vocals get more unhinged than prior songs.

During the first short stretch of the album you’ll encounter several deadly choice songs: “Mech Retaliation”, “Mental Slug”, and Logic Bomb. Those that follow this trinity are also of note but here’s where I really sunk into the new stuff.

Fuckin’ “Mech Retaliation” has this sharp death-like tremolo running through it, at the outset and then later after a thick several rounds of blasting and shredding. These sections are punctuated by deep gruff shouts and then bleary screaming through two precise sentences. That first awesome riff gets smashed up when it returns at the end.

Coming off that is the second blow “Mental Slug” which is pretty self-descriptive in its theme; although I immediately just see Metal Slug instead. It’s appropriate too, but more or less slamming those living in a bubble separate from reality. This one starts chunky, then a scream brings the blast followed by twisted wails, and the whirling and mincing begins fully. The end sees a strong roll back in pace and slams nicely.

“Logic Bomb” actually has a video component (see below). A tool used in writing software that sets of a malicious function/event once conditions are met (Nedry’s “White Rabbit”). Lyrically staggered like raw data reports, this one is sharp and relentless. Not much nuance but a complete clobbering with very harsh vocals from both sources.

 

All three of these are damn flattening. Working forward then, the immediate blast combo of Nicks piercing screams and the ferocious drumming on “Information Era” – wow there’s some quick and crushing work there. This is one of my favorites easily. Even getting a bit dissonant too.

Jumping to “Unearthing” which as mentioned gets slower and dirtier, even a bit blackened midway in and then packs two groovy adjustments to the main riff. All instrumental. It’s a wicked precursor to “Harvester” which definitely feels closer to the demo, in it’s twenty seconds of frantic fury and a final slam near the end. “Unearthing” is a nice twist back to the first demo’s slower bits and I like it.

“Canadian Grind” is all about just that: spinning and grinding Dahmer and Head Hits Concrete, which is awesome of course. A good dose of worship. “Targeted” follows and is deceptively catchy all around. After breaking that first section into mince the track ascends all wobbly and gets slightly mangled to end.

Then comes “Astral Drain” which is tense, discontinuous madness done exceedingly well including the great contrasting vocals in the first few seconds; all couched in a few short words on planetary domination.

“2172 AD” surrounds itself in Zone of the Enders mythos. It dials things back slightly for a little bit being significantly longer than the last few tracks but not for the worse, and crushes start to end in excellent execution. Creative, fast, cathartic.

And this carries over into three unstoppable tracks which follow: “No Tradition”, “No Tolerance”, “No Wealth”. The first is blinding and raw, with quick little blasts I love in the opening. Shouts turn to wretching acrid screams that transform into barks later. At first frantic and angular, in the break a calmer short-lived groove that erupts is so good.

“No Tolerance” starts fast then turns punk for a moment, intermittent blasts notwithstanding. Then is thrown into a killer break down for the last breath which lets the bass have some air too. “No Wealth” brings back that merciless blasting full throttle. The three sections are fervent, a little unstable by the end like it’s barely holding on.

The third to last track takes inspiration from the Antikythera mechanism, and splice some inter-dimensional fantasy into the brief lyrics. Bass opening and straight into a straight old school grind attack, later getting chunkier almost back to the original demo. Before the last track a brief powerviolence skirmish in the form of the six second “Doghead”.

Finally “Depersonalization” closes off Frail Vessel’s last effort and it’s a good one. Huge and groovy right off the bat, then the grind comes eroding down. The last half brings a torrent of dissonant, feedback filled, warped grind steeped in the idea of extreme alienation.

Yes it sucks a little that they’ve said they’re done with this one, but damn did they leave an admirable scar on the Canadian grind landscape. Without much fuss or fair. The root inspirational themes that can often come off as stale are invigorated in this groups efforts — then there’s mounds of flesh melting and brain altering riffs and drumming. And even with the switch in vocals the sincerity and virulence is retained well.

Go get this now! It’s free for fucks sake and man does it slay. The word is that at some point it will pressed to something physical, most likely a tape or cd, in which case I’ll update this post accordingly and get your attention on twitter or facebook.

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