“Pleasure only starts once the worm has got into the fruit; to become delightful, happiness must be tainted with poison.” – Georges Bataille
“Pain, agony, desire and arousal all rolled up together,” is how guitarist/vocalist Leila Rauf summates the Vastum mentality, influenced in no small part by thinkers like Bataille, the father of base materialism.
“Is it bad or is it good?” Rauf asks of life, death and sex. “You can’t really judge; it’s just a powerful experience.”
Vastum’s new release, dubbed Patricidal Lust, picks up where the 2011 debut, Carnal Law, left off, embracing the abject: humanity’s agonizing struggle with sexual self-hatred.
In other words, Vastum bravely and thoughtfully addresses “a taught shame that we have in our society, to hate all things dirty and carnal and all the waste that our body produces. Everything is very suppressed in that sense.”
The new album, a rare exploration into death metal’s truly darkest possibilities, almost didn’t happen though. Producer Jeff Davis perished tragically in a motorcycle accident shortly after tracking the album.
“It’s been a really, really difficult year for Vastum,” Rauf says. “There was a big hiatus while we were trying to figure out who could take over the recording.”
To make matters worse, guitarist and partial songwriter Kyle House then left the band, albeit after finishing his guitar work.
But alas, Patricidal Lust is complete and will soon unleash its crushing hymns of dread and writhing magnificence on the world. Disgusting down-tempo melodies crawl and crush at the uneven pace of simplistic yet innovative drums, relenting only to accommodate Rauf’s beautifully sickening lead guitar work, which differs from her riffs in her other different, epic project, Hammers of Misfortune. Rauf and Daniel Butler’s vocals drill directly into the eardrums, prominently mixed and convincingly executed.
Technically, not much has changed since Carnal Law. Vastum simply add more of what made that record so unique, addicting and disturbing.
“Our goal was to make the record far more atmospheric and add a lot more space,” Rauf explains. “[It’s] just darker, more atmospheric, more cavernous…”
Similarly, the lyrics continue the perverse and visceral theme of before, but “venturing into more vulnerable territory.”
To illustrate, Rauf describes one of her contributing pieces on the release, “3 AM in Agony.”
“A lot of people are saying it’s about sexual abuse and it’s actually not. It’s about the experience of a urinary tract infection from sex and that’s a very personal sort of account — something that I didn’t really do as much on Carnal Law.”
Such lyrical subjects are rarely found in the overtly masculinized sphere of death metal, as many bands resort to cheap gore and thoughtless violence for their themes. Vastum’s lyricists Rauf and (vocalist) Daniel Butler, however, carry a social consciousness stemming from their origins in punk music. Focusing on the primal, contradictory, confusing, and elating desires inherent in sexuality, the lyrics are human-centred, rather than white/heterosexual/male-centred.
“There’s a lot of misogyny, there’s a lot of heterosexism in death metal and our approach was to give it an opposite spin,” Rauf elaborates. “It was kind of like writing lyrics that aren’t typical for death metal because it’s who we are. It’s different without really trying.”
These lyrics, in Rauf’s words, speak to “the internal, not the external, horrors and perversions of the world: those that reside within our own mind and self, through under-explored perspectives (i.e. non-male, non-hetero) which is more interesting and exciting — and also vulnerable and scary — than rehashing these topics on an external, superficial or cartoonish level.”
For those searching for a simple gore fix or testosterone fuelled fist-pumping session, go home. Patricidal Lust is a lot to take on and a lot to take in. But it’s worth the effort for those daring enough to delve within.
Patricidal Lust will be released on CD on November 12 via 20 Buck Spin. If you prefer the vinyl edition, it will be released via the same label on December 10.
By Ian Lemke