Sounding like a psychotic hybrid of early Slipknot, Converge and the Dillinger Escape Plan, and having built up their sound and following for five years before finally being signed and releasing a full-length album, Boston natives Vein pull together two genres that shouldn’t work together – vicious, dissonant mathcore and single minded nu-metal – and create something far more brutal than the latter as well as more accessible and strangely catchy than the former on their debut album.
Kicking things off with a burst of intense energy Virus://Vibrance stands out right away, bringing in the famous Amen Break and a twisted, lurching guitar lick before five seconds have even passed and then seamlessly transitioning into live drumming and an instantly memorable riff that sounds as though it was dragged forwards from the early 2000s. The nu-metal elements work surprisingly well together with the unhinged, hyperaggressive mathcore that runs through most of the album, grounding the dissonant riffs and explosive drumming with catchy interludes that prevents it from becoming a chaotic mess. Old Data in a Dead Machine doubles down on the nu-metal sound after a frantic intro, showing off singer Anthony DiDio’s range with clean singing before slowing down with a grinding breakdown – the first of many on this album – that hits with the force of a sledgehammer and turns a riff that would have been a generic space-filler on a late 00s metalcore record into a brutal and necessary part of the song, leading straight into another sampled drum break and the short (and slightly pointless) Rebirth Protocol. The first six tracks are more like two 5-minute ones split into six parts, dividing the album almost equally into halves – “two” wild, unrestrained and violent songs to begin with followed by a slower and more focused second half. Having already thrown you in at the deep end with the first six minutes, Broken Glass Complexion collapses into chaos right away in a hail of screeching, dissonant guitars and drum fills that feel as though you’re being battered by the music itself, soon switching abruptly to a verse that bounces between all three styles of vocals before giving itself over to more clean singing and a crazed outro that breaks itself up with a bizarre, wavering burst of feedback. Carrying on from the last song with a distorted siren and then giving way to a strangely (and relatively) calm breakbeat, Anesthesia is one of the few moments you’ll get to catch your breath on this album – although at only a minute long it feels more like a bridge between the last song and the next, gradually building on an increasingly intense mantra of “day in day out/I don’t wanna be like this” until Demise Automation expands on it with a twisted, squealing hook. The slower pace and less complex instrumentation causes it to hit even harder than most of the previous songs, giving itself over to the rhythm without letting up on the claustrophobic, unsettling atmosphere that’s been built up from the first notes of the record.
The second half of the album sees the band going all-in with the nu-metal side of their sound, beginning with Doomtech which brings the speed down even more than Demise Automation – going from bursts of unrestrained violence lead by drummer Matt Wood to a slower and heavier grind that wouldn’t have been out of place in the golden age of metalcore until it almost completely does away with the aggression, bringing in a bridge that offers some relief from the crushingly heavy chorus (“every time I close my eyes I crash a thousand cars, and all my loved ones die!”) and wouldn’t be out of place on a Deftones song – but this is only a brief respite before a hail of drum rolls and shrieking feedback kicks in, bringing in one more round of the chorus to end it…and Untitled (which feels less like an outro and more like its own track, unlike Rebirth Protocol and Demise Automation) properly ends things with a short and thrashy burst of speed, layering two different vocal lines on top of each other – passionate, clean wailing and the rabid shrieking that covers the rest of the record. Bearing down on the listener with a choppy, almost djent-like riff, End Eternal is a brutal piece of work; featuring some of the best and most memorable drumming here along with a chorus spat out with so much force the listener physically feels it, eventually closing with one of the most startling things on the album – a text-to-speech voice intoning “goodbye” before the band delivers the finishing blow – the song is easily the high point of the record and the best thing the band have done to date. The title track Errorzone goes for a more focused approach, tearing away from the rabid chaos of before for a slower and darker atmosphere with a more melodic feel to it…which works up until two minutes in at which point the only real misstep of the album gets made, suddenly introducing a wimpy and painfully cliche melody (“it’s out of myyyy haaaaands…”) which carries on through to the end of the song and completely wrecks the atmosphere and sense of danger that the album had built up. Quitting Infinity makes a brave effort to try and recapture the attitude that was ruined by Errorzone, and for the most part it succeeds by going for the polar opposite vocally and bringing the low growls to the front of the mix along with gradually getting slower and more oppressive sounding – but after the tonal whiplash that was the second half of the last song it doesn’t hit as hard as it should.
For the most part Vein’s strengths are in short, vicious blasts of songs instead of 4+ minute ones, but despite sometimes losing its focus Errorzone is sharp, brutal and completely insane (much like the album cover) – along with being the best and most exciting nu-metal album in at least a decade.
Genres… mathcore, nu-metalcore
Best tracks… Virus://Vibrance, Broken Glass Complexion, Demise Automation, End Eternal