Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Death Metal
Release Date: 24 November, 2017
This is a reissue of a 2016 release, but on bigger, badder label Season of Mist, in the hopes these new guys will be given a little more attention than what they’ve already seen. A first album by the Swiss group Virvum, Illuminance is a pretty interesting listen, with lots of squeaks and squonks that add layers of mild weirdness to some technical playing. Plenty of heart and soul thrown into this album and it shows.
Opener “The Cypher Supreme” hits you in the face right away; you know immediately you’re in technical Death territory here, but it’s nothing that’s unlistenable. Sometimes this kind of thing can by an exercise in chops rather than in good song-writing, and that’s not the case with Virvum. You’ve got some kick-ass guitars raging and a sweet bass run that made me grin from ear to ear. There’s the requisite time changes, but it’s not jarring and flows naturally.
In fact, this whole record feels like one song, and a short one at that. I don’t know how they make forty minutes feel like twenty, but they do. This whole thing flies by, and it’s seamless. Just listening casually, I can’t tell where the first song ends and second bruiser cruiser “Earthwork” begins. They just kind of happen, brilliant guitar work blending with the peppering drums to create a nice, unique sound. Really the only way to know is that the vocals begin, and they’re damn brutal. Yes, you get the stops and starts that come with technical Death, but again, they never feel forced or flashy, and there’s plenty of flash to be had on this record. “Earthwork” ends with a layered, melodic guitar laid over atmospheric keys and it almost feels like you switched records without realizing it. And yet it works.
Did I mention the awesome bass playing? Jesus.
We get staggering epic “Illuminance” next, and you can tell right from the opening that you’re getting the goods here. Heavy, powerful, yet still technical and fretty as hell. The song segues from the keyboardy-guitar atmospherics of the previous track and drives straight into heady territory. This one will make you bang your head while still taking some time to savor those tasty licks.
And the record just keeps going. There’s lots of sci-fi feel to this album, almost like you’re cruising in a spaceship, warping from galaxy to galaxy, the universe laid out before you, the stars streaking past. Every song is a trip to another world, a wholly new experience in and of itself, and yet related and thematically connected by the intense playing of the band. It’s pretty easy to see why Season of Mist pulled this one and put it out again to get it greater exposure, the band already garnering good notices by opening for acts like Dying Fetus and Fleshgod Apocalypse. Here’s a case of a really good band getting lost in the cracks of a giant scene and Season of Mist are determined to keep that from happening.
So what can be said about such a tech-Death platter? If you’re into this sort of thing, you’ll love it. These guys carry every bit of the weight and depth of the great tech-Death bands, while also adding plenty of flourishes to make it their own. There are lots of little touches here, giving some Voivod feel to the music, making it not only interesting and brutal, but a bit weird, as well. And the weird is good, really good. I’m giving this one an 8, but if this style is in your wheelhouse, you’ll probably find this to be a 9 pretty easily. Virvum bring technical prowess, great skills, and intense brutality, but never lose track of the song, making this record a strong contender for any end of the year Top 10 lists.
1. The Cypher Supreme
4. Ad Rigorem
5. Tentacles Of The Sun
6. Elemental Shift
7. I: A New Journey Awaits
8. II: A Final Warming Shine: Ascension And Trespassing
Total Playing Time: 40:26