REVIEW: Vanities – Dead Beats [EP/2014]


Artist: Vanities

Album: Dead Beats [EP]

Oh, vanity. An often-overlooked snake in the grass that serves as the downfall of countless men and women, it is easily the subtlest of the seven deadly sins—for what is really more disgusting than the obnoxious and self-obsessed? Even the most pious among us are forced to choke down words of rage and disgust at the absurdly vain. Even so, it would be a mistake to assume that Vanities fall victim to their namesake sin—for these Cape Cod crushers are nothing but unfiltered honesty and relentless aggression. Dead Beats is a collection of songs that showcase tongue-in-cheek truth and intensity side-by-side, as Vanities are a hybrid nu-metallic bitterness, passionate hardcore spirit and murderous heaviness that will ring true to fans of heavy and heart-felt music alike.

Instrumentally, Vanities carry themselves like the bastard child of Sworn In’s Start/End and Vanna’s Void; blending technicality with in-your-face energy that hits like a shotgun but carries the subtle lethality of a knife to the throat. Percussionist Chris Arbour is the systole and diastole of Dead Beats’ thumping heartbeat—opting to stay away from straightforward kick-drum patterns and standard fills and veering towards technically immaculate off-beat flourishes and ear-catching beats that will have the listener’s head banging so hard that their neck might just snap. As arrhythmic as Arbour’s figurative heartbeat might be, bassist Tyler Fauxbel keeps up with its bizarre candor perfectly, adding a plunking, plodding low-end to Arbour’s percussive artistry. Together, Arbour and Fauxbel act as an anchor; a perfect counterpart to guitarists August Axcelson and Bob Nichols. Axcelson and Nichols are the very definition of frantic, letting loose with furiously-fretted riff after furiously-fretted riff, interrupting the groove-laden shred session that is Dead Beats only to deliver spine-snapping heaviness in the form of ruthless, raunchy breakdowns. Take, for example, “Hit the Bottom,” which shows Axcelson and Nichols using eerie nu-metallic guitar lines to create a catchy chorus—a chorus that is hammered home by the track’s ruthless, gut-busting breakdowns.

In a manner fitting to Dead Beats’ diverse and bi-polar instrumentation, Vanities’ vocal efforts are scattered across the board, but universally talented all the same. Zach Lemieux—assisted by guitarist Bob Nichols—lets loose with an entire arsenal of awe-inspiringly incredible screams and shouts that do the instrumental diversity on Dead Beats great justice. From the very first syllable of “Hopeless,” Lemieux unloads visceral screams and bitter, brooding yells on the listener—the highlight of which comes during the nihilistic, aggressive and downright angry chorus of “Hit the Bottom,” where Lemieux’s chanted scream is driven home by the haunting, hammering instrumental backdrop—as well as how effectively he manages to alter his pitch and tone depending on the depth of the guitars or the beef of the percussion backing him.

Whether it’s the masterful musicianship provided by Vanities’ instrumentalists, or how marvelously Lemieux manages to adapt his insanely tormented screams and shouts to any instrumental backdrop, the result is the same: Dead Beats is absolutely alive with intensity, energy and aggression. “Spineless at Best” is a catchy lesson in creative song structuring that results in a fluid-but-furiously-heavy experience akin to floating on a river of molten lead. Likewise, “Hit the Bottom” and “Too Little Too Late” are sinister, snide and severe examples of cleverly-crafted choruses and crushing, skin-peeling breakdowns that would make Vanna proud. Even the EP’s interlude is haunting and dark, giving the listener’s mind a dismal, dank cave in which to roam while it isn’t busy being berated by the remainder of the EP’s brutalizing heaviness. Every second of Vanities’ Dead Beats is carefully created with crushing and calculated intent—making it an amazingly captivating and immersive listen, keeping the listener hooked for the entirety of it’s 26-minute run time.

Vain? Certainly not. Dead? Anything but. It would seem as if Vanities are a walking, talking and functioning misnomer, driven by everything they despise—as their debut EP, Dead Beats is a vivacious and visceral release that goes right for the listener’s throat, peeling skin and flesh from bone as it desires, leaving the listener emaciated and eviscerated—and definitely not about to obsess over their appearance.



For Fans Of: Barrier, Vanna, Sworn In, Victims, Kingmaker

By: Connor Welsh