Band: Vile Creature
Album: Cast of Static and Smoke
Label: Halo of Flies Records, Dry Cough
Release Date: 7 March, 2018
“Angry queer gloom cult.” I can’t say I ever expected that combination of words to appear in one of my album reviews, but here we are. The mantra has propelled the Canadian duo of Vile Creature to numerous internet headlines, with articles popping up in Noisey, Revolver, and Exclaim. The band approaches issues in anti-oppression, pro-trans rights and awareness, and veganism with the righteous sounds of bone-crushing doom. I won’t delve too far into these themes for the album review, but it would be disingenuous of me not to address what this band is about. With all that said, make no mistake: Vile Creature is not a gimmick band, nor do they compromise artistry for the sake of politicised platitudes. Cast of Static and Smoke creates a powerful atmosphere and draws the listener into its story through its droning, absurdly heavy soundscapes and fits right in with the doom revolution happening south of Vile Creature’s home.
Four decidedly long and patient compositions comprise the tracklist for Cast of Static and Smoke. The tracks lead into one another effortlessly and the sprawling passages grant a high degree of cohesion to the record. Such a measured approach was absolutely vital here; the record is in fact a concept album, tackling the tribulations of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend reading the short story which accompanies the album, found on castofstaticandsmoke.com. Without spoiling it, the story is set in the aftermath of a nuclear fallout wherein society as we know it dissipates, leaving behind only mechanics and their sentient, slave-like machines. It’s an inventive approach to a classic motif, as the narrator follows the odyssey of five machines who leave the new society. It’s a quick, enjoyable read with some subtle themes. As overt as the band is about their creative motivations and agendas, the tale doesn’t impose itself or editorialize itself; it reads more like the retelling of a society’s oral history and leaves the reader to find the moral of the story.
Vile Creature creates a monstrous soundscape to accompany the weight of a nuclear crisis. After a clean guitar and a soft narration provide the exposition for Cast of Static and Smoke’s world, massively distorted guitars and punishing drums erupt into the mix on “Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper” with an enormous tone which could wake the dead. The guitar sustains a single note for several seconds, allowing the listener to bathe in the reverb and distortion. It’s immediately clear that sonic texture is a massive component of Vile Creature’s sound, and KW does a phenomenal job of conveying musicianship through his guitar tone. The crackling of the distortion perfectly fits the album’s lyrical theme, as the guitar almost sounds irradiated itself. It sounds exactly the way you’d want a doom album to sound.
Each composition contains the heavy riffing and crushing qualities which have been synonymous with the doom genre since Tony Iommi gifted it to the world. Each song contains at least one or two riffs which induce involuntary headbanging. The drums and guitar work with each other efficiently; there isn’t anything particularly flashy or virtuosic, but Vic and KW have clearly formed a strong musical bond and work well together. That being said, a small injection of flash could have really helped to push the album into more interesting spaces. The tone and atmosphere of Cast of Static and Smoke sit in a monotonous space. There are a few sludgy sections and rhythmic variations to break up the steady drone, but otherwise the first five minutes of the album will give you a good idea of the rest. While that’s fairly common practice for several doom and drone bands, a blastbeat here and there or a small, gloomy solo could have added a nice accent to the otherwise bleak drone. That may run counter to the spirit of the album and Vile Creature’s sound, but the truth of the matter is that repeat listens became less and less rewarding on this album, and it needed a few more nuanced ideas to really hit home.
Despite these issues, Cast of Static and Smoke hits hard and offers uncompromising heaviness. Vile Creature have done a fantastic job of world building, which is by no means an easy task. The massive soundscape of the album perfectly evokes the emotion of the story and the devastation of a nuclear holocaust. Doom metal provides one of the best mediums for the subject matter, as the sustained distortion and reverberations allow the listener to sit in the austere reality of total annihilation. The album is, perhaps, repetitious to a fault, but at least it creates something worth repeating.
1. Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper
2. Circuits, Bending & Breaking
3. Forest, Subsists as a Tomb
4. Sky, in Descending Pieces
Total Playing Time: 42:04