Album: Vol. II: Inside the Mind
Things didn’t get better.
You tried the treatments. You distanced yourself. When that didn’t work, you made more friends—reached out to more people, did everything you could to try new things and be more “approachable.” You took pill after pill, sat through therapy sessions until your legs went numb and your brain wasn’t far behind. But still, the sickness just wouldn’t leave you. With every step you made in the right direction, something happened that knocked you three steps back. You made new friends, but your old ones died. You got closer with your family only to have them turn on each other. It started to feel like you were the problem—maybe, you think, you’re the common denominator here.
You’ve become the Victim.
When last we left Illinois nu-metal infused metalcore and groove outfit, VCTMS they looked a little different. For one, they had a few more syllables in their name—but they were also younger, more naïve and innocent. But with time comes age, experience and exposure to the cold, unforgiving nature of the world. And while it can be hell on the spirit, the band’s latest full-length release, Vol. II: Inside the Mind, is proof that it makes damn good music. Filled with bitter, depressive and brooding self-hatred atop a canvas of instrumentation that oscillates expertly between technically-tinted and intense to catchy and crushing, VCTMS might not be the same band that brought us the incredible break-out Vol. I, but that’s okay—because while they might be sicker this way, they’re also most definitely better.
Insanity. It dug into the gyri and sulci of your brain like a worm and planted itself like a seed. And while it spent all of Vol. I growing and growing, it would seem that the illness that is Illinois’ VCTMS has reached its final form. Every second of Vol. II: Inside the Mind is intense, be it in a spine-shrinking and heavy fashion, or a neurotic, intimate and intrusive fashion. From the opening seconds of “Sick//Tired,” songwriter and percussionist Meredith Henderson hammers on her kit as if she has all of Hell inside of her, fighting to get out. Throughout Vol. II, Henderson proves she’s worth her weight in platinum when it comes to both writing and playing. Songs like the album opener, as well as “Demon//Limbs” and “The Relapse Process” see her more energetic and aggressive side, while the closing number, as well as “I’m Thinking of You All the While” see her playing ever so slightly more subtly, working with bassist Zaq Wanders to create a monstrous, huge sounding low end that adds gut-busting heaviness to every soul-withering, spiritually-derisive breakdown throughout the album. Wanders doesn’t just work to play up Henderson’s hectic and hellfire-hot drumming; his work on “De/Tached,” “Know and Loathe” as well as “Subdued” is prominent, punishing the listener with lurid, low grooves and hardcore-tinted attitude that adds bite to the band’s thick, callous bark. However, while Henderson’s drumming is dynamic, and Wanders’ bass is thick and dense, much of the meat of VCTMS’ instrumentation comes from the off-the-wall effects and conversational interplay between the riffs, chugs and grooves of guitarists Abraham Regalado and Anthony Williams. Regalado and Williams’ work, starting from “Sick//Tired,” through the eerie and serene “Death Perception” and the grisly, chaotic “The Relapse Process” and curiously-named “Anesthetic” (I say “curiously-named” because, while the subject matter might see the band in an emotionally numb state, the listener will feel every sting), the duo are simply-put, balls-to-the-wall, insane. In keeping with the rest of the band—attitude and talent both—Regalado and Williams add spazzy effects and insane, bouncy and groovy riffs between wrecking-ball breakdowns that give Vol. II even more aggression than its predecessor.
When you think of insanity, one of the first things that might come to mind are the voices—manifestations of your unbridled subconscious bursting through the seems of the frail guise you call sanity. They urge you to maim—hurt, injure, kill, torture everything, but most importantly yourself. With every day, every mistake, every failure to right the wrongs you’ve made walking this earth, they grow louder and more direct. They start to sound more and more like the voice of VCTMS’ frontman, John Matalone. Matalone’s murderous, malicious and twisted screams are the lynchpin to Vol. II—they define every haunting second, every catchy-yet-sinister chorus that lingers in your mind for days, eroding your brain. “De/Tached” and “Know and Loathe” are especially true of this—with the chorus in the latter being one of the catchier moments conventional metalcore has heard in some time. Meanwhile, Matalone’s voice in “Anesthetic” is hypnotizing in a way that defies explanation. From gritty, screeching screams to deep, dense and thick lows, Matalone’s range is broad and his voice has endurance and energy both—just as his lyrics have meaning that resonates with any listener who has ever felt…well, felt anything. With many of the words and turns of phrase coming from Henderson’s pen, the duo are as dynamic as they come—especially with Henderson’s appearance on “Strange//Sadness.”
All of this is without considering the incredible number and variety of guest vocal appearances that appear throughout Vol. II—with the likes of Cade Armstrong (former vocalist of Of Glaciers and frontrunner for Northlane’s replacement vocalist), Hunter Young (Culture Killer, Silence, She.), Darius Tehrani (SPITE) and Devin MacGillivray (Yuth Forever), among others, VCTMS are in excellent company throughout Vol. II—proving that, yes, the age-old adage is true; misery does love company. Especially as every haunting syllable, spine-splitting breakdown and brain-melting moment of lurid, nu-infused heaviness draws the listener in, deeper and deeper like a drug that leaves the listener broken and tattered—unable to feel, but wanting nothing but more Sickness.
For Fans Of: Yuth Forever, Alpha Wolf, Barrier, The Plot in You, Korn, Reflections
By: Connor Welsh