Denver sludge trio Vexing launch their debut full-length album, Grand Reproach.
Vexing is a sludge and death metal band with progressive tendencies and the regular scent of doom. In 2020 they put out an EP, Cradle, and before that was a demo that presaged the new album with early versions of some of the songs we find on Grand Reproach. I like the rough and ready feeling of the music that clearly is well thought-out and carefully prepared. The band is Clayton Whitelaw (bass, vocals), Garrett Jones (guitar, vocals), and Jeff Malpezzi (drums).
There are eight songs on the new record, starting with “The Mold.” We get half a minute of crackling and noise before the guitars kick in, and the growling huff of vocals. It’s like a back-alley bar fight. “Vanquishing Light” originates in the distance, a faint sound growing louder, bringing with it those menacing guitars. This song is longer than the opener, allowing for a middle section of spacy otherness, and a grand exit. With “The Invisible Hand,” the tempo slows and the mystery grows. The unseen world has just as much aggression as the visible. “Shallow Breath” is a raft adrift on a body of water of unknown size. There is confusion and desperation that leads to lashing out. Ultimately some resolution is found, and, while it might not be a panacea, the waters calm until, near the end, a leak is discovered in the raft.
On the flip we get “Howling,” as in wind, and the sounds of distant space. “Blunderbuss” corrupts the solitude with suggestions of evil deeds, and then the actual deeds themselves. The longest track is next, “Small Black Flame,” edging toward the ten-minute mark. I like this one as a standard-bearing piece because it has all the elements we have been hearing and digging on so far, laid out with both patience and ferocity. It is my favorite track on the album. The set closes on “Red Skies,” a somber reminiscence that will bring different emotions to different people. This is sludgy death metal grown with deeper roots than you usually hear. Recommended.
Grand Reproach is out on Friday, May 26th through Ordovician Records. Bandcamp is the quick get – touch the link below.
Vexing website, https://vexing.net/
© Wayne Edwards