Album: Psychosadistic Design
A lot of people take the difference between “murderer” and “serial killer” for granted. A murder is a rudimentary act of killing—taking the life of another as a result of passion or pure aggression, typically poorly thought out and singular in nature or event. A serial killer, however, is a whole different animal. Serial killers display neurotic intensity and careful calculation when it comes to the cessation of human life. They’re insane in the more insidious and ingenious ways—brilliant as they flay flesh from bone—and to liken them with every day crooks and murderers seems, to a point, insulting.
Which is much how South African sultans of slam Vulvodynia compare to the remainder of the genre. As most slamming brutal death metal bands are content to put out 50-minute monotonous chug-fests where every song sounds like the same descending riff with way-too-fast drums and laughably unintelligible vocals, Vulvodynia liken themselves with the ranks of Katalepsy, Ingested and Devourment, as their latest full-length album, Psychosadistic Design, is proof of their die-hard work ethic and determination to bring devastating aggression to slamophiliacs around the world. A far cry from the band’s cringe-worthy debut EP, Psychosadistic Design is a divinely drafted display of slamming death metal perfection that any fan of extreme metal would be wise to indulge in.
Brutal slamming death metal—“slam” for short—is a polarizing genre. People either get way too into the gory gimmicks and extreme intensity offered by the instrumentation, or they find it repetitive and dull. Fair enough—many bands, especially when it comes to slam, find themselves pigeonholed in the latter, coming across as repetitive even for those who otherwise enjoy the genre. Vulvodynia, however, are not one of those bands. While their debut EP, Lord of Plagues, was little more than poorly-recorded and haphazardly chugged distortion, every release since then has seen Vulvodynia growing exponentially—and Psychosadistic Design is no exception. Songwriters Luke Haarhoff, Byron Dunwoody and Kris Xenopoulos have all matured their sound when it comes to creating murderously heavy riffs, soul-smothering breakdowns and slams that hit hard enough to wipe Mt. Everest cleanly from the surface of the earth. Haarhoff and Xenopoulos work primarily with the album’s furiously fretted riffs and unimaginably fast fretwork—allowing songs like “Drowned in Vomit” and “Flesh Tailor” to be brutalizing examples of slamming perfection. “Umthakathi” is another unparalleled example of slamming brilliance, where Haarhoff’s horrendously heavy guitars work in dynamic sycope with Xenopoulos’ grimy bass atop a layer of light-speed drumming written by Dunwoody (and played live by Thomas Hughes). Dunwoody’s drumming is every second what the listener would expect from a slam record—as unthinkable speed drops into knife-dragging, dreary density without warning. “Triple O.G. Slamdown”—along with honestly, just about every song on Psychosadistic Design—is an excellent example, as the album in its entirety is an awe-inspiring display of this brutal slamming death metal juggernaut roaring on all cylinders.
Where Vulvodynia’s instrumental dynamic has grown one hundred fold since the band’s debut, their vocal element has grown ten times that—as Duncan Bentley has become more than just another gutturally-gifted bree-bending frontman. Rather, Bentley has reached a tier of vocal legend reserved only for the likes of Waking the Cadaver’s Don Chapman, or Acrania’s Luke Griffin—both of whom appear on Psychosadistic Design, along with countless other remarkably talented frontmen from ruthlessly heavy bands around the world. What makes Bentley’s work great isn’t the guest features on Vulvodynia’s 2016 full-length—it’s that he manages to hold his own against several of heavy music’s biggest, most talented and most unique names. Whether it’s slamming with the best of them (Jason Evans and Luke Griffin) on “Triple O.G. Slamdown,” or roaring with ease alongside deathcore legend Adam Warren and brutal deathcore newcomer Chrissy Jones (ClawHammer) on “Depraved Paraphilia,” Bentley has become one of heavy music’s most versatile and vicious frontmen, bar none. With a range sprawling from standard screams to bizarre gutturals and—of course—the pig squeal, it seems as if there is no pitch or note Bentley cannot hit, making his voice more of an instrument than an actual…well, voice.
Vulvodynia do everything a slam band should do with precise, perfected ease. They are fast and furious, while still managing to be murderously heavy and sludgy. Expertly balancing speed, technicality and tremendous brutality with ease, the fact that this is the same band that released Lord of Plagues just a little over two years ago is simply mind-boggling. However, they do find themselves falling into some other minor pitfalls that present themselves with brutal slamming death metal artists. While Psychosadistic Design is raunchy and fun, a great deal of its appeal is found in shock value—be it at the (stereotypically) over-the-top song titles and lyrical content (not that you can really understand it) or at the sheer speed and violence of the music itself. While they do it well, it still wears off after repeated listens, leaving the listener less and less enamored after each listen. However, those first ten to twelve plays through are manic and mind-numbing, beating away at the listener’s sanity like twin sledgehammers. Stalking every ounce of sensibility you have left in your head and hunting it as if it were a valuable food source, Vulvodynia rob you of your wit, steamrolling you with slamming brutality and leaving you left for dead before you can even truly get used to the unruly aggression that is Psychosadistic Design.
For Fans Of: Ingested, Waking the Cadaver, Acrania, Human Error, Vomit Cake
By: Connor Welsh